Today is the 54th anniversary of the famous Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of April 11, 1965. There were 271 killed and approx. 1,500 injured that day. The picture at the top is the Swan Inn at 6 Mile Road and Alpine Avenue in Comstock Park (by Walter Nelson). A long-track F4 tornado moved from Ottawa Co. into Kent Co. – hitting Comstock Park and Rockford, then moving northeast into Montcalm Co. before dissipating. Here’s stories from survivors. Check out photos from the aftermath of the twister. Could it happen again? Major West Michigan tornadoes through the decades.
Two F4 tornadoes struck Branch and Hillsdale Counties 30 minutes apart with 21 lives lost. One tornado had a continuous track of over 90 miles. The twisters moved across Coldwater Lake, Devils Lake, Manitou Beach and Baw Beese Lake destroying hundreds of cottages and homes. A wind instrument near Tecumseh measured a wind of 151 mph in the 2nd tornado. The loss of life would have been much worse, but for the fact that it was still too early for the summer influx of cottage owners and the fact that many residents had left for evening Palm Sunday church services. An F4 tornado north of Lansing left one person dead and there was a tornado fatality near Middleville in Barry Co. Other tornadoes that day hit north of Kalamazoo (17 injured there), near Hastings, Bay City, Unionville and 2 tornadoes struck Alma. After this event, the Weather Bureau began the Watch/Warning system that is still in use today. Read more here, here, and here. That year we had a record March snowfall (36″) and it was quite cold in March. Hail up to golfball-sized fell. Photos here. Check out the Comstock Park Palm Sunday tornado facebook page. Pictures from Marion, Indiana.
Photos here. More pictures. 1995 special from WSBT on the tornado outbreak. Here’s old film from 1965 – Toledo. Here’s more old film – look at what radar looked like in those days. A lot more people live in the path of these tornadoes 54 years later.
These are the path lengths of the tornadoes that day, moving through 6 states.
Here’s how you can be prepared when severe weather threatens. Scientists explore changes to tornado warnings. West Michigan counties with the highest tornado count. Emergency preparedness for severe storms. Four years ago, Alpine Twp. printed The 50th Anniversary of the Palm Sunday Tornado book. This is a history of the tornado that came through Alpine Township on April 11, 1965. We worked with the National Weather Service on this very interesting book. I think it is still available for $20 at the township office on Alpine Ave. and 6 Mile Road. We interviewed those who lived through that tornado and included photos of the destruction of that day. Along with the book, we include a DVD of those interviews and photos.