While Michigan has tornadoes, it is way behind other states in terms of number and severity. According to the National Climatic Data Center, Michigan averages only 17 tornadoes a year (compared to 35 to 159 in Texas). According to Extreme Weather Sourcebook of 2001, the state ranks 17th in the nation in terms of economic loss caused by tornadoes. Only about 5 percent of Michigan tornadoes reach F4/F5 (“Devastating” at 207 mph or more) on the Fujita Scale, the violent strengths most responsible for injuries, deaths and property damage.
Michigan’s Deadliest Tornado
There has only been one F5 tornado (“incredible” at 261-318 mph) of record in Michigan, but it did a lot of damage. The ninth deadliest tornado in the United States, the Flint-Beecher Tornado raged through northern Flint on the late afternoon and evening of June 8th, 1953. It devastated houses along a 23-mile-long path and almost reaching Lapeer. It killed 115 people, injured 844 and caused $19 million in property damage. The tornado's winds reached higher than 250 mph and debris from the touch-down path was found up to 200 miles away.
Other Significant Tornado Events for Southeast Michigan
- May 12th, 1956: The Allen Park F4 Tornado injured 22 people.
- July 4th, 1957: The Brighton F4 Tornado touched down in southeast Brighton.
- May 8th, 1964: The Mt. Clemens F4 Tornado cut a three-mile-long path north of Mt. Clemens. It killed 11 people and damaged 372 houses and buildings.
- April 11th and 12th, 1965: The Palm Sunday Outbreak refers to a weather event that spawned 51 tornadoes throughout the Midwest, including Michigan.
- April 3rd and 4th, 1974: The Super Outbreak refers to a weather event that spawned 148 tornadoes throughout the Midwest, including Michigan.
- March 20th, 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.
According to the National Weather Service, April, May and June mark the height of tornado season in southeast Michigan. Tornadoes tend to occur in the late afternoon, between 4 and 6 p.m. While Michigan tornadoes occur most often in June (approximately 25% of those spawned in the state), they have also been reported in all months but December and January.