GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Sixty-nine years ago Wednesday, on June 8, 1953, Michigan experienced the deadliest tornado in state history.
The tornado resulted in 116 fatalities and 844 injuries. This is the most tornado fatalities ever from a single tornado in Michigan and it was the most fatalities in the U.S. from a single tornado until the Joplin, Missouri tornado of 2011.
The tornado was half a mile wide and totally demolished 340 houses. It stayed on the ground for 27 miles. A trailer was picked and deposited eight miles away. Books flew through the air for 35 miles and canceled checks from a bank were found east of Lake Huron in Canada.
Here is more information on the Flint-Beecher Tornado. The year 1953 was also one of the nation’s worst tornado years. Earlier that in the spring, a tornado ripped through Waco, Texas, killing 114 and injuring 597. And the day following the Flint-Beecher tornado, the same storm system spawned an F4 tornado in Worcester, Massachusetts that killed 90 people and injured 1288 and on May 21, 1953, an F4 intensity tornado roared through St. Clair County and the Port Huron area, killing two and injuring 68.
Below is a map of the seven tornadoes that hit SE Michigan that day and two more just across the border in Ohio. Of the seven tornadoes in Michigan, one was rated F5, one was F4, two were F3, two were F2 and one was F1. That was just in one day. Michigan has not had an F4/EF4 tornado since 1977.
The Flint-Beecher tornado touched down around 8:30 pm. As it got dark, the search for victims became more difficult. The air mass was very humid, with Flint reporting a dewpoint as high as 71°. The Weather Bureau had issued a Severe Weather Bulletin about an hour before the tornado struck. The tornado was up to 1/2 mile wide. As the Flint tornado dissipated, the parent thunderstorm formed a second tornado, which continued east to Lake Huron.
This picture shows some of the damage. So many homes totally leveled. You can read about the science of the Flint-Beecher tornado.