KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — This year marks the 43rd anniversary of the Kalamazoo tornado.
The F3 twister struck shortly after 4 p.m. and was on the ground for at least 22 minutes, moving west to east along an 11-mile path.
There were five deaths and 79 injuries (not including the injured who treated themselves). The deaths were the first caused by a tornado in Kalamazoo County since August 1939. Damage totaled over $50 million (in 1980 dollars).
The tornado first touched down in far western Kalamazoo County (before that, there was wind damage from the storm was reported in eastern Van Buren County) and moved east right through downtown Kalamazoo.
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:
Here’s video of the tornado approaching downtown Kalamazoo and video of the damage right after the tornado.
An initial report counted 47 homes destroyed with another 216 heavily damaged; 116 businesses were heavily damaged.
“A rowboat was found five blocks from where it was parked,” WOOD TV8 reported at the time. “There were reports of 2-by-4s being driven into cement walls.”
You can see more firsthand stories of the tornado here and more photos here.
Final note: The picture above as taken from one of our Kalamazoo cameras. It looks like a large tornado, but it’s really steam rising up to meet a layer of low clouds.