Michigan Tornado Facts
Michigan may not be known for its tornadoes, but there have been some significant twisters that have touched down in the Great Lake State, dating back to the 1950s.
Tornadoes are an infrequent visitor to Michigan. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the state averages just 17 tornadoes a year. While 17 may seem like a substantial number, compared to the twister-prone state of Texas, which averages 35 to 159 tornadoes per year, Michigan's yearly tornado count is relatively low.
Of the all the Michigan tornadoes recorded in history, only about 5 percent of reach F4 or F5 on the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale. An F4 or F5 storm is categorized as “devastating” and the powerful winds reach speeds of 207 mph or more. According to the Extreme Weather Sourcebook of 2001, Michigan ranks 17th in the nation in terms of economic loss caused by tornadoes.
Michigan tornadoes tend to arise in the late afternoon and early evening, usually between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m. While they occur most often in the month of June, April and May also mark the height of tornado season, according to the National Weather Service. However, tornadoes have been reported all year, barring the months of December and January.
Michigan’s Deadliest Tornado
There has only been one F5 tornado, on record in Michigan, and it caused an incredible amount of damage. The storm, called the Flint-Beecher Tornado was categorized as “Incredible” with wind speeds between 261-318 mph and the storm was the 9th deadliest tornado in United States history.
The storm raged through northern Flint on June 8th, 1953. It devastated houses along a 23-mile-long path that spanned to the town of Lapeer. The powerful twister killed 115 people, injured 844 and caused $19 million in property damage. The storm was so strong, debris from the touch-down path was found up to 200 miles away.
Other Significant Michigan Tornadoes
- May 12, 1956: The Allen Park F4 Tornado injured 22 people.
- July 4, 1957: The Brighton F4 Tornado caused 2 injuries, and destroyed several homes.
- May 8, 1964: The Mt. Clemens F4 Tornado cut a three-mile-long path north of Mt. Clemens. The storm killed 11 people and damaged 372 houses and buildings.
- April 11 - 12, 1965: The Palm Sunday Outbreak was a severe weather event that spawned 51 tornadoes Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.
- April 3 - 4, 1974: The Super Outbreak was another extreme weather event that spawned 148 tornadoes throughout Michigan and several other states in the Midwest.
- March 20, 1976: The West Bloomfield F4 Tornado touched down along Halsted Road between 13 and 15 Mile Roads. It killed one person and caused $5 million in property damage.