US History - Other

Michigan Tornado

Misty Manistee's image for:
"Michigan Tornado"
Caption: tornado
Image by: wikimedia commons
© wikimedia commons 

On 08 June 1953, long before the days of Doppler Radar and advance storm warnings what would be recorded as one of the worst tornadoes in history touched down on the north side of Flint, Michigan in what is known as the Beecher District, and decimated it.  Registering wind speeds of 261 to 318 m.p.h., it was the first F5 ever recorded to touch down in Michigan.  The tornado was part of a super system that started in Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin before moving to the the Great Lakes States

Before the tornado slammed into Flint it had touched down thirty miles away at the GM Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan where it did twenty-five million dollars in damage.  Even though the tornado had been on the ground for close to an hour, Flint residents had no prior warning until the tornado was on the ground roaring through the city.  The death toll would eventually count at 116, making it the ninth deadliest tornado in history, with the death toll not to be surpassed until 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado.  The property damage in Flint was estimated at 17 million, which by current standards would stand in the billions. 

With ground communications compromised and many of the streets closed, the first cause of action was given to locating and aiding the injured.  Debris from the Flint tornado was found in Sarnia, Ontario, and the trail of devastation was clearly cut in the path of the killer tornado through eight Michigan counties; Monroe; Washtenaw; Livingston; Oakland; Alcona; Genesee; Lapeer; Huron; and bounced over to Ohio where it hit St. Clair County.

As the residents of Michigan were doing damage assessment, the tornado moved over southern Ontario and Lake Erie during the early morning hours of 09 June as a strong F4 tornado, and struck central Massachusetts in the late afternoon hours as Worcester residents were arriving home from work to read the news of the Flint tornado. 

The tornado as it touched down in Worcester, Massachusetts cut a mile wide path and traveled traveled forty-six miles.  The tornado left 95 fatalities in Worcester, and vanished as it had been born.  As with the Flint tornado, debris from the Worchester tornado was found hundreds of miles away. 

The loss of life was not surpassed by this system until the Joplin, Missouri tornado of 2011.  Fatalities were recorded as: Nebraska 11; Michigan 125; Ohio 17; and Massachusetts 95.

In the aftermath of the two tornadoes born of the same system counted as one event occurring one day apart, both cities would rebuild, but never forget the tornadoes that dropped from the sky on a June afternoon.  

Tornadoes season is usually late spring to late summer, and one has but one recourse when a tornado drops from the sky; take cover and get out of its way.


More about this author: Misty Manistee