GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The most tornadoes in a single day in Michigan occurred on May 21, 2001. 

A total of 19 tornadoes were confirmed in the state, including four separate tornadoes in Kent County. Across Lower Michigan, there were two EF2 tornadoes, 4 EF1 tornadoes and 13 EF0 tornadoes. Besides the tornadoes in Kent County, tornadoes were also reported in Ottawa, Allegan, Barry, Kalamazoo, Eaton, Gratiot, Clinton, Ionia and Isabella Counties.

The map above is Severe Weather Reports on May 21, 2001, in the U.S. The red dots are where tornadoes touched down, the blue dots are wind damage and the green dots are severe hail reports.


Map Showing where the tornadoes occurred in Southern Lower Michigan on May 21, 2001

I remember the day well. I had a morning speech in Spring Lake. It was a gray morning with a low cloud deck. There were numerous scattered showers and a cool east wind. Early in the day, temperatures were in the 50s. There was a fairly sharp warm front to the north from Indiana and there was a quick wind shift accompanying the front from the east to the south. The first warning came out just as I came into the Weather Office. Here’s a summary of some of the tornadoes (lots of info at the link).

Photo of the Hartland Tornado – May 21, 2001

Here’s the NWS storm survey of the Hartland Tornado:

A tornado developed near Hartland High School and Lake Walden and moved north parallel to US-23, eventually crossing that busy highway between Clyde and Faussett Roads. There was a brief break in the damaged path south of Center Road, but the tornado reformed again north of Center Road, this time back on the west side of US-23. The tornado continued north into Genesee County.

Radar image – Velocity Data – Hartland Torando, May 21, 2001

Most of the damage to trees and structures was consistent with a weak tornado. However, near and north of the Majestic Golf Course the damage was considerably more intense, justifying an F2 rating.

Seventy vehicles in the golf course parking lot were damaged (rolled, tossed or struck by debris), with 12 of them totaled. Thirty-five golf carts were destroyed, and a pontoon boat
used to transport golfers was flipped. A large piece of a wooden footbridge was tossed through the enclosed back porch of the clubhouse. An amputee organization was having a golf outing that afternoon. Thankfully, the golf carts were equipped with G.P.S. units, and the course sent a message out to those units that a tornado was approaching. Only one person on the course suffered a minor injury. The exact injury was undisclosed.

Three homes were destroyed near Clyde Road and US-23, as were a party store and a towing company that shared a building. A man at the party store suffered a minor hand injury, and two vehicles at the towing company were totaled. Several hundred trees were downed in this general area.

Farther north, several cars and semis were flipped when the tornado crossed US-23. One driver of a semi suffered a head injury when his truck overturned, though he was not seriously hurt.

The TRW plant on Center Road lost a small part of its roof. Several cars in the parking of Tyrone Hills Golf Course had windows blown out. As the tornado moved across agricultural land, three cows were killed.