TORNADOES

Source: Atlas of Michigan, ed. Lawrence M. Sommers, 1977. 

The state of Michigan is no stranger to thunderstorms, severe weather, and tornadoes. The following map indicates the distribution of tornadoes since 1950, per 10,000 square miles. As can be seen, the frequency of tornadoes decreases greatly as one heads north. In addition, tornado frequency generally increases as one moves from west to east. Not surprisingly, the greatest number of tornadoes occur in the Detroit and Flint areas. There appears to be a clear cutoff line from Muskegon to Saginaw to Port Huron, with points to the south much more susceptible to tornadoes than points to the north. This also corresponds with the tension zone across Michigan. The state of Michigan as a whole has experienced 14.1 tornadoes per 1,000 square miles since 1950. Here is how some of the locations in lower Michigan compare with other locations in Tornado Alley.

Cuyahoga, OH (Cleveland) 24.0

Cook County, IL (Chicago) 39.1

Wayne County, MI 42.4

Monroe County, MI 45.4

Genesee County, MI 50.0

St. Louis County, MO 51.1

Dallas County, TX 80.7

 

The following map and table indicate the locations of strong tornadoes across Michigan. An F4 tornado on the Fujita Scale has winds of (207 - 260 mph). An F5 tornado has winds of (261 - 318 mph). Not surprisingly, all but one of the strong tornadoes have occurred in the 4 southernmost tiers of counties.

Here is a table of the number of tornadoes in each county since 1950, the county's land area, and the number of tornadoes per 1000 square miles since 1950 (Dens, or Density).

County Torn Area Dens County Torn Area Dens County Torn Area Dens
Alcona

8

675

11.85

Gratiot

8

570

14.04

Missaukee

7

567

12.35

Alger

5

918

5.45

Hillsdale

18

599

30.05

Monroe

25

551

45.37

Allegan

19

828

22.95

Houghton

0

1012

0.00

Montcalm

6

708

8.47

Alpena

11

574

19.16

Huron

8

837

9.56

Montmorency

5

548

9.12

Antrim

7

477

14.68

Ingham

18

559

32.20

Muskegon

6

509

11.79

Arenac

7

367

19.07

Ionia

14

573

24.43

Newaygo

10

842

11.88

Baraga

2

904

2.21

Iosco

9

549

16.39

Oakland

23

873

26.35

Barry

14

556

25.18

Iron

5

1167

4.28

Oceana

5

541

9.24

Bay

11

444

24.77

Isabella

10

574

17.42

Ogemaw

9

564

15.96

Benzie

4

321

12.46

Jackson

13

707

18.39

Ontonagon

2

1312

1.52

Berrien

25

571

43.78

Kalamazoo

19

562

33.81

Osceola

9

566

15.90

Branch

14

507

27.61

Kalkaska

5

561

8.91

Oscoda

4

565

7.08

Calhoun

11

709

15.51

Kent

18

856

21.03

Otsego

2

515

3.88

Cass

10

492

20.33

Keweenaw

1

541

1.85

Ottawa

15

566

26.50

Charlevoix

2

417

4.80

Lake

1

568

1.76

Presque Isle

5

660

7.58

Cheboygan

3

716

4.19

Lapeer

12

654

18.35

Roscommon

7

521

13.44

Chippewa

6

1561

3.84

Leelanau

2

349

5.73

Saginaw

14

809

17.31

Clare

6

567

10.58

Lenawee

25

751

33.29

Sanilac

11

964

11.41

Clinton

14

572

24.48

Livingston

16

568

28.17

Schoolcraft

2

1178

1.70

Crawford

8

558

14.34

Luce

2

903

2.21

Shiawassee

17

539

31.54

Delta

8

1170

6.84

Mackinac

4

1022

3.91

St. Clair

12

725

16.55

Dickinson

3

766

3.92

Macomb

17

480

35.42

St. Joseph

6

504

11.90

Eaton

16

577

27.73

Manistee

1

544

1.84

Tuscola

10

813

12.30

Emmet

5

468

10.68

Marquette

6

1821

3.29

Van Buren

13

611

21.28

Genesee

32

640

50.00

Mason

4

495

8.08

Washtenaw

21

710

29.58

Gladwin

8

507

15.78

Mecosta

8

556

14.39

Wayne

26

614

42.35

Gogebic

2

1102

1.81

Menominee

5

1044

4.79

Wexford

6

566

10.60

Gd. Traverse

3

465

6.45

Midland

8

521

15.36

 

 

Strong Tornadoes (F4 or F5) 1950-2000

County Date Time Mag Deaths Injuries
St. Clair 05/21/53 1521 F4 2 68
Monroe 06/08/53 1715 F4 4 18
Genesee 06/08/53 1930 F5 116 844
Lapeer 06/08/53 2130 F4 0 23
Manistee 04/03/56 1735 F4 2 24
Allegan 04/03/56 1745 F5 18 340
Genesee 05/12/56 1725 F4 3 116
Wayne 05/12/56 1755 F4 0 22
Livingston 07/04/57 1755 F4 0 6
Macomb 05/08/64 1559 F4 11 224
Ottawa 04/11/65 1654 F4 5 142
Branch 04/11/65 1803 F4 23 294
Branch 04/11/65 1840 F4 21 293
Clinton 04/11/65 1915 F4 1 8
Monroe 04/11/65 2035 F4 2 29
Clinton 04/21/67 1915 F4 0 8
Oakland 03/20/76 1815 F4 1 55
Kalamazoo 04/02/77 1332 F4 0 10
Eaton 04/02/77 1406 F4 1 44

 

The following tables display the deadliest thunderstorm events since 1950 and the costliest weather events from 1993-2000.

Deadliest Thunderstorm Events 1950-2000

Location Date Type Deaths
Southeast Lower 06/08/53 Tornadoes 125
Southern Lower 04/11/65 Tornadoes 53
Allegan/Manistee 04/03/56 Tornadoes 20
Macomb County 05/08/64 Tornado 11
Southeast Lower 07/02/97 Tornadoes/Winds 7
Kalamazoo County 05/13/80 Tornado 5

 

 

Costliest Weather Events 1993-2000

Location Date Event Damage ($Millions)
Statewide 05/31/98 Thunderstorms 172.0
Statewide 07/02/97 Tornado Outbreak 143.5
Statewide 07/13/95 Thunderstorms 54.1
Statewide 01/13/94 Record Cold 50.0
Metro Detroit 07/21/98 Thunderstorms 40.9
Thumb, Saginaw Valley 06/21/96 Thunderstorms 25.8
Wayne County 09/11/00 Flooding 20.0
Southeast Lower 03/13/97 Ice Storm 19.0
Northern Lower 09/26/98 Thunderstorms 12.3
Mid-Michigan 04/19/93 Flooding 10.0


Source: Atlas of Michigan, ed. Lawrence M. Sommers, 1977. 

Sources
National Weather Service – Detroit/Pontiac, Michigan http://www.crh.noaa.gov/dtx/start.htm
National Climactic Data Center http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov
Midwestern Climate Center http://mcc.sws.uiuc.edu

This page was created by Andrew Huizinga, a GEO 333 student.

This material has been compiled for educational use only, and may not be reproduced without permission.  One copy may be printed for personal use.  Please contact Randall Schaetzl (soils@msu.edu) for more information or permissions.