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West Michigan Weather – I Remember the Worst Weather Event In West Michigan History

With Michigan Severe Weather Awareness Week come and gone (It was in April, when we were back to reality after the warm March) The date of May 13, 1980 will always stick with me. It’s one of the worst weather days in West Michigan History. The “Kalamazoo Tornado” hit 32 years ago this weekend. I was in elementary school and my class was a roller skating rink in Portage.

I will never forget this as long as I live. About four o’clock the power went out for about a minute. Everyone screamed and kind of went crazy. We were fifth graders for the love of god! Then the tornado sires started going off. About 15 minutes later parents started showing up, and then on the radio the report was amazing. An F-3 tornado had went right through Downtown Kalamazoo. Trees in Bronson Park were down, and the back had been ripped off of Gilmore’s Department Store. The next day the Kalamazoo Gazette had a special “Tornado” edition.


The “Vanished Kalamazoo” website has some great pictures and accounts of the tornado. Another great site with Kalamazoo Tornado pictures and reflection is the Mi Gen Web site “KALAMAZOO COUNTY, MI GENEALOGY & LOCAL HISTORY

The tornado killed 5, injured 79 and did an estimated $50 million (1980) in damage. It also did one positive thing. The destruction brought the community together and started a new catch phrase that’s still used to describe the city today: “Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo”


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