Palm Sunday tornado outbreak revisited, 54 years later

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1965 tornado damage_86907

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Thursday marks 54 years since the infamous Palm Sunday tornado outbreak in six states, which killed 271 people and injured 1,500 others, including some in West Michigan.

On April 11, 1965, Two EF4 tornadoes struck Branch and Hillsdale counties within 30 minutes, killing 21 people. The twisters moved across Coldwater Lake, Devils Lake, Manitou Beach and Baw Beese Lake, destroying hundreds of cottages and homes.

An EF4 tornado also tore through Ottawa County, heading east into Kent County. It hammered Comstock Park and Rockford before moving into northeastern Montcalm County, where it dissipated.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Survivors recount Palm Sunday tornado outbreak, 50 years later

An EF4 tornado north of Lansing killed one person and there was a tornado fatality near Middleville in Barry County. Another tornado hit north of Kalamazoo, injuring 17 people.

Tornadoes also formed near Hastings, Bay City and Unionville. Two twisters hit Alma.

While the toll was high, the number of casualties could’ve been worse. The tornadoes tore through the area when it was too early for summer cottage owners to return to West Michigan and many people were attending Palm Sunday church services.

Chief Meteorologist Bill Steffen said after the disaster, the U.S. Weather Bureau (now known as the National Weather Service) rolled out the watch and warning system it still uses today.

For photos, video and a look back at the conditions leading up to the outbreak, visit Bill’s Blog.

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