GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan will see its greatest chance for strong tornadoes through May, with the chance for high wind events persisting into the summer.

While Michigan may see fewer tornadoes than usual, there is a better-than-average chance the tornadoes it does see would be strong.

The 2023 severe weather season has taken off on an active start locally. Already, Michigan has one confirmed tornado on the east side of the state and several large hail reports in the books.

Nationally, the year is off to a violent start, too. Tornado deaths alone have climbed to 63, already more than double that of 2022.

State-level seasonal forecasting is far less accurate than day-to-day forecasts (which boast a high success rate). Still, certain signals can usually cast light on the expected season to come.


Often when looking to the future, it is smart to consult the past. Previous severe weather years can offer key clues as to what to look for in a coming season. This year, the globe is retreating out of a three-year La Nina pattern. It is relatively rare for a La Nina pattern to persist for three straight years. In fact, there were only three other times on record it has happened; from 1954 to 1956, 1973 to 1976 and 1998 to 2001.

All three of these years delivered strong tornadoes to Michigan in the spring and summer coming out of the La Nina. Each featured at least one F3 tornado, with 1956 even producing one F5 in the Lower Peninsula.

Along with the fact La Nina is retreating and El Nino is building, forecasters are also aware of warmer than usual temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is an ample supply of moisture and heat for severe weather across the United States and even West Michigan, especially in spring and early summer.

It is important to note that trends over the last several decades in Michigan have favored fewer tornadoes in general and weaker tornadoes on average.

Taking all this into consideration, the forecast for severe weather in 2023 calls for a good chance of a fewer-than-average number of tornadoes but the potential for at least one strong tornado. High wind threats will likely continue and appear during a few events this summer. The highest chance for damaging wind events will be late spring and early summer.