41st Anniversary of the Kalamazoo Tornado

Bill's Blog

A file image shows the 1980 Kalamazoo tornado. (via NWS)

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Kalamazoo Tornado. The twister struck shortly after 4 pm and it was on the ground for at least 22 minutes. The tornado was rated F3 and moved west to east along an 11-mile path. There were 5 fatalities and 79 injured (does not include the injured who self-treated) . Damage totaled over 50 million dollars (1980 dollars). The tornado first touched down in far western Kalamazoo County (wind damage from the storm was reported in E. Van Buren Co.) and moved west to east right through downtown Kalamazoo.   These were the first tornado deaths in Kalamazoo County since August 1939.  Huge trees were uprooted in Bronson Park and windows were blown out of downtown buildings, including the ISB Building – now the Comerica Building.  Here’s a couple of eyewitness accounts.  Here’s a map of the tornado path:

Map of the Path of the Kalamazoo Tornado 5 13 80

Here’s video of the tornado approaching downtown Kalamazoo and video of the damage right after the tornado.  Here’s the 10-minute story from WOOD TV  “there were reports of 2 x 4s being driven into cement walls…a rowboat was found 5 blocks from where it was parked.”  An initial report counted 47 homes destroyed with another 216 heavily damaged.  116 businesses were heavily damaged.

1980 kalamazoo tornado map_336170

Some firsthand stories of the tornado here. More pics. here.

A file image shows damage left behind by the 1980 Kalamazoo tornado. (via NWS)
A file image of the destruction left behind by the May 13, 1980, tornado.
Kalamazoo Tornado Lookalike

I added this pic. from Kalamazoo. While this looks like a tornado, it’s just a plume of steam rising up into a low cloud layer. If you were here, you could see that this steam cloud was not rotating. If it’s not rotating, then it’s not dangerous.

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