Palm Sunday Tornadoes – 56 Years Ago Today (Sun.)

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Swan Inn Motel after the Palm Sunday Tornado of April 11, 1956

Today is the 56th 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.

A file image shows damage left by the 1965 Palm Sunday Allendale tornado. (Courtesy Lee Nelson via NWS)

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.

Another 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.

“Double” Tornado near Elkhart, Indiana – 4 11 65

This is a picture of a rare “double tornado” taken Palm Sunday 1965 near Elkhart, Indiana. Links: Actual pic. of the Branch Co. tornado – what a MONSTER wedge tornado!  Spoon wrapped around tree branchMuncie newspaper day after.

Path of the Palm Sunday tornado that moved from near Allendale to Trufant.

Here’s a map of the path of the Palm Sunday tornado that went through Ottawa and Kent Counties. The tornado formed south of Allendale, came up through Marne into Comstock Park, where it destroyed the Holy Trinity Church in Alpine Township and the Swan Inn Motel/Restaurant on Alpine Avenue (one of the fatalities was there, another across the street. The tornado continued through Rockford to Trufant in Montcalm County.

Paths of the Palm Sunday Tornadoes..through 6 states

Supercells produced long-track tornadoes across N. Indiana into S. Michigan and Ohio. Check out Actual pic. of the Branch Co. tornado – what a MONSTER wedge tornado!  Spoon wrapped around tree branchMuncie newspaper day after. 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 51 years later.

F-Scale Tornado Ratings on Palm Sunday 1965

Here’s the 47 tornadoes that occurred that day by F-Scale…there were seventeen F4 tornadoes and another 5 were F3 intensity. The twisters moved 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. Two years ago, Alpine Twp. printed The 50th Anniversary of the Palm Sunday Tornado book. In 2015, we printed The 50th Anniversary of the Palm Sunday Tornado book.

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Damage from the Palm Sunday Tornadoes.
Paths of the 1956 and 1965 tornadoes crossed near Samrick Avenue in Comstock Park

The paths of the Standale/Hudsonville and the Palm Sunday Tornado crossed in Comstock Park close to Samrick Avenue, just north of West River Drive.

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