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.

Not In Kansas Anymore: L Frank Baum, the Wizard of Oz & Michigan

Not in Kansas Anymore

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore!, photo by Tina :O)

The Wizard of Oz rolled off the presses May 17, 1900. It’s one of my all-time favorite books. What you may not know is that L. Frank Baum, author of the beloved series, purchased a large, multi-story Victorian summer home on the southern end of the Macatawa peninsula on Lake Michigan.

Several years ago the Holland Sentinel published a cool piece about Baum and his Macatawa summer home that says (in part):

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” supposedly was written in Chicago, but some of the forest scenes look just like the pathways that run through the dunes, the younger Baum said.

He assumes Macatawa was where part of the book had been worked on or written, as Baum might have found inspiration from the castle in Castle Park for the yellow brick road, some say, or even based some of the characters in the book on personalities he encountered in the small lakeshore community.

“Especially in the Oz stories, a lot of characters and situations that we may not recognize … he drew lots of inspiration from Macatawa for the book.”

Check out L. Frank Baum, The Goose Man of Macatawa on Absolute Michigan for more about the author’s Michigan ties and information about the Wizard of Oz festival slated for June in Ionia.

About the photo, Tina shares:

This freakie cloud formation started at the end of our wedding photo shoot. There were clouds swirling all over us but luckily no tornados formed. I added some sepia for a little Wizard Of Oz effect.

View her photo background bigtacular and see more in her Pure Michigan slideshow.

Cold Air Waterspouts

Cold Air Funnel Cloud III

Cold Air Waterspouts, photos by Debbie Maglothin

If you live along the Great Lakes, chances are you’ve seen a waterspout from time to time. While waterspouts are typically formed when cold air moves over warm water in late summer or early fall, occasionally the reverse can happen.

Debbie Maglothin took several photos of cold air waterspouts over Lake Michigan off the Ludington State Park beach. WZZM 13 meteorologist Alana Nehring explains how they form:

A drastic temperature difference between the air an water is required. In the most recent event, water temperatures were near 32 degrees while air temperatures were closer to 10 degrees.

A steady breeze needs to be present to jump-start the process of evaporation.

In most cases, this is also how lake-effect snow is produced but in some unique situations, a slight twisting motion will occur in the steam above the water. If it is maintained long enough, eventually weak funnels will develop.

Click the pics to view them bigger and follow Debbie on Facebook at Cha Bella Photography.

Cold Air Funnel Cloud II Cold Air Funnel Cloud

More Michigan weather on Michigan in Pictures.

December 23rd Detroit Tornado is Michigan’s First Ever

Detroit Tornado

Detroit Tornado, photo by Joe Gall

The National Weather Service reports on the first ever December tornado in Michigan:

A strong low pressure system tracking from the southern Plains into the Upper Great Lakes brought record December warmth to Southeast Michigan on Wednesday, December 23rd. Stronger winds associated with this system interacted with the unseasonably warm air to produce the first December tornado in Michigan history during the evening. This tornado occurred in Wayne County, just north-northeast of Canton. The tornado was rated EF-1 with peak winds of 90 mph. The tornado touched down at 643 pm EST, tracking 2 miles before lifting at 646 pm EST.

This brief tornado developed along a fast moving line of showers that shifted across Southeast Michigan during the evening (5 to 8 pm). A Significant Weather Statement (SPS) was issued at 620 pm, highlighting the potential for wind gusts up to 50 mph. The brief duration and weak intensity of this tornado made the issuance of a tornado warning nearly impossible, typical of brief spin-ups that are embedded along a fast moving line. In many cases, such as this one, the tornado touchdown occurs largely between radar scans, leaving little opportunity for advanced warning.

This is the first December tornado in Michigan history and only the third during the winter season. The other two tornadoes occurred on Jan 18, 1996 in Kalamazoo County and Feb 28, 1974 in Wayne County.

You can get a report on the tornado with images of the very minor damage from WDIV TV-4/Click on Detroit.

Joe photoshopped this picture back in 2011, so please don’t tell me it’s not real because I know that. View it on Flickr and see more in his Movement 2011 slideshow.

More weather fun on Michigan in Pictures.

Stormy Monday

Tornado Warning

Tornado Warning, photo by Jeffrey Smith

WZZM says that severe weather is becoming more likely Monday afternoon as a cold front sweeps through the state:

Monday will begin with sun but storms will develop to the west and advance quickly into West Michigan by late afternoon/early evening time frame. Models are suggesting the atmosphere will be unstable with abundant moisture by Monday afternoon, meaning storms will have a favorable environment to grow.

The NOAA Storm Prediction Center has most of Lower Michigan in the ‘enhanced risk’ area (orange) on Monday meaning several thunderstorms could reach severe levels. To read more about the convective outlook Monday, click here.

Threats from this round of thunderstorms include damaging wind, hail, lightning, isolated tornadoes, and brief heavy downpours. Thunderstorms reach severe criteria when winds are at least 58 mph, hail is one inch in diameter, or a tornado is produced.

Read the detailed forecast for severe weather and you’d like to get more alarmed, check in with Fox 17 West Michigan’s Kevin Craig.

View Jeffrey’s photo bigger and click for more of his clouds photos.

Stormy Monday, T Bone Walker…. and for good measure, B.B. King.