June 8, 1953: Remembering the Flint-Beecher Tornado

via Absolute Michigan

Tornado Damage in Beecher

Tornado Damage in Beecher, courtesy Flint Public Library

“The noise sounded like two freight trains going over a trestle right over your head; it was an ugly roar. My wife said the noise when the house went was like a giant pencil sharpener working.”
-Tornado Survivor Robert Blue

The National Weather Service relates that the Flint-Beecher tornado was Michigan’s worst natural disaster in terms of deaths and injuries:

This was the last tornado to kill over 100 people in a single tornado event anywhere in the United States. On June 8th, 1953, 116 people lost their lives in the Flint-Beecher community, and 844 people suffered injuries. The Flint-Beecher Tornado was just one of eight tornadoes that occurred that horrible evening across the eastern portion of the Lower Peninsula. Those other seven tornadoes resulted in an additional 9 deaths, 52 injures, and damage stretching from Alpena to Erie.

The Flint-Beecher tornado was rated as an F5, the highest rating on the Fujita scale of damage. Winds were likely in excess of 200 mph as the 800 yard wide tornado moved on its 27 mile path through Genesee and Lapeer counties. Approximately 340 homes were destroyed, 107 homes had “major damage”, and 153 homes had “minor damage”. In addition farms, businesses and other buildings were destroyed and had damage. These totaled another 50 buildings destroyed and 16 with damage. The damage was estimated around $19 million (about $125 million adjusted for inflation).

So great a number were killed by the monstrous tornado that the National Guard Armory building, along with other shelters, was turned into a temporary morgue. The scene of bodies pouring into the Armory (as an intermittent light rain poured outside) was incredibly bleak and horrifying, especially for the families and friends of the victims. At least 100 people waited outside into the rainy night before they could move inside to try and identify the bodies.

Read on for more at Absolute Michigan.

See more in the Flint Public Library’s Beecher Tornado gallery and watch this video account from tornado survivors below.

More history and more from Flint on Michigan in Pictures.

5 thoughts on “June 8, 1953: Remembering the Flint-Beecher Tornado

  1. I remember this one very well. I was with my parents on a trip up north and we passed through this area a day or so after it happened. An atomic bomb couldn’t have been any more destructive. Washing machines sitting in trees, cars so battered they were almost unrecognizable..etc. We were told that a drive in movie theater had just let out and those that turned one way perished and the ones turning the other way were spared.
    Many years later I met a person that said his mother was carrying him yet unborn when this happened and was blown down the stairs in to the basement. When the tornado had passed she returned up through the debris and everything was gone but the refrigerator with the door open and one can of beer in it. Just the floor of the house was still in tact. Some months after this tragedy they received a letter from Ontario Canada that had a receipt for some item they’d purchased at some point prior to the tornado.This one at the time was dubbed the Mt. Morris tornado as I recall.


  2. I was standing in our front yard in Reed City on that day in June 1955 and saw the line of black clouds in the south. I called my Mother out to see. We later learned about the tornado’s that ripped though the city of Flint, my Mother had several cousins living in Flint at the time. She was very worried until she heard from them.


  3. My Dad was a truck driver for Kroger supermarkets at the time, and he and another driver took food and other supplies to the area a few days following the tornado. He took along my Mom’s little Kodak Brownie camera (which I have now–still works perfectly) along to take pictures of the damage, and in color (which I also have–a full album’s worth). I couldn’t believe the destruction the tornado wrought—like an atomic bomb. I wasn’t born yet—not till December of 1956, but remember my parents and aunt and uncle who lived in Saginaw talking about it, and seeing the pictures as a child. My Dad was really sad for the people who lost everything, and hoped he’d never have to see anything like that again.

    Liked by 1 person

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