tornadoes

NOAA

DETROIT (AP) - The National Weather Service is forecasting a chance of strong thunderstorms starting Saturday night through Sunday in much of southern Michigan.

The storms are expected to start in southwest Michigan on Saturday night. Damaging wind gusts up to 70 mph and a chance of tornadoes are possible on Sunday afternoon and evening in southeast Michigan.

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories/s1135.htm / NOAA

Today is the 60th anniversary of the tornado that ravaged the small community of Beecher, Michigan. According to Jake May at MLive, the F5 tornado killed 116 people and destroyed nearly 350 homes.

Check out a video created by the Flint Journal that documents people’s story from the tragic event:

National Weather Service

Tornado conditions merely amounted to warnings in Washtenaw County, but a tornado did touch down in Atlas township last night.

Ron Fonger, of MLive.com reported that the majority of the damage was probably caused by small twisters as well:

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice sentenced to jail time

“Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway was sentenced to one year and one day in federal custody, for the crime of bank fraud. Federal prosecutors say Diane Hathaway illegally concealed a million dollars in assets, so she could qualify for favorable terms on a short sale of one of her homes in Michigan. The defendant had hoped to avoid prison time,” Michigan Radio's Vincent Duffy reports.

Michigan schools could see increase in state funding

“Michigan public schools would see more state funding under a budget plan approved by the state House. Every school would see at least a five-dollar per-pupil boost. Schools getting the minimum amount from the state could receive up to 60 dollars more per student. The state Senate is expected to take up the education budget today,” Michigan Radio’s Jake Neher reports.

Strong winds and funnel clouds cause damage in Michigan

"The National Weather Service reported several funnel cloud sightings in Michigan last night, including a tornado that landed near Goodrich High School southeast of Flint. No injuries were immediately reported. The weather service says high winds in the same severe thunderstorm system heavily damaged several homes, toppling numerous trees and power lines," the Associated Press reports.

YouTube

Rescue workers in Oklahoma are searching through the wreckage this morning looking for survivors.

With all the destruction, experts think this tornado could be listed as the costliest in U.S. history.

This tweet shows it all:

Reports of the number killed in the tornado have been going up and down this morning. Mark Memmott at NPR's Two-Way blog is keeping track of events as they unfold.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Spring storms are returning to the Midwest.

Warm air meeting cold air is often used as an explanation for how tornadoes form, but that's a "gross oversimplification" according to Roger Edwards of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

That's how many thunderstorms form, but most of those storms don't turn into tornadoes. Edwards writes, "the truth is that we don't fully understand [how tornadoes form]."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The cleanup effort is well underway after last week’s tornado in Dexter.

Steve Feinman, a trustee for Dexter Township, says volunteers have been incredibly helpful, and the township has hired a contractor to help with the cleanup.

Rather than wait to see if the state will send disaster relief funds, the township has gone ahead and allocated $200,000 from its own budget to help residents "remove trees and branches and shrub material that was damaged." Fineman says residents can bring those materials to the edge of the roadside for pickup. 

"You can’t wait for a state declaration to make sure your main thoroughfares are open, or people can get out of their houses and have their utilities back, so it’s a necessary thing," explains Fineman.

Matthew Altruda / YouTube

Staff at the Hudson Mills Metropark say their golf course near Dexter suffered significant damage from last night's F3 tornado that touched down around 5:30 p.m. From a Huron-Clinton Metroparks press release:

“According to neighbors, the funnel touched down on hole nine and stayed a while,” said Jerry Cyr, park operations manager for Hudson Mills Metropark. “We are grateful that no one was injured.”

The course is closed until further notice.

The main park is open, but without electricity or running water.

Although park personnel have not been able to completely assess the destruction, preliminary reports are that several areas of the course have suffered substantial damage.  Trees and household debris are scattered throughout the course. 

The park is the site where dramatic video footage of the tornado was captured by visitors.

Park staff say maple sugar programs scheduled for Saturday, and Sunday will be held if the power to the park is restored.

Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

DEXTER, Mich. (AP) — A Washtenaw County official says his office is responding to reports of "lots of damage" after reports of at least one tornado striking the ground.

County director of Emergency Management Marc Breckenridge says he could not confirm any reports of injuries or deaths from the twister Thursday afternoon. He could not provide details of the damage. No injuries or deaths have been reported.

National Weather Service spotters are reporting a tornado touchdown in the Dexter and Pinckney area of Washtenaw County. Weather Service Observation Program Leader Debra Elliott says radar also "is highly suggesting" a touchdown.

Annarbor.com posted a video of the possible twister near Dexter.

Rain, hail and high winds have been moving across parts of southeastern Michigan late Thursday afternoon.

The counties in Michigan under tonight's tornado watch. / NWS

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for 31 counties in Michigan until 11 p.m. tonight.

It includes the cities of Alma, Battle Creek, Big Rapids, Charlotte, Clare, Fremont, Grand Rapids, Greenville, Hastings, Holland, Ionia, Jackson, Jenison, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Mount Pleasant, Muskegon, Reed City, South Haven, and St. Johns.

A "watch" means conditions for the formation of tornados are possible.

The following counties are under the watch:

user meagan / Flickr

Jodi Debbrecht, Waterford’s 51st District Court Judge, is organizing a donation drive to help the city of Joplin, Missouri.

On an Oakland County website "Judge Jodi Helps Joplin" Debbrecht writes about her personal connection to the Joplin area:

Like many in southeast Michigan, I was overcome with emotion when I saw the television images of the devastation from the tornado that touched down in Joplin, Missouri. For me, Joplin’s violent weather literally struck close to home. I grew up in Missouri, and would frequently vacation with my family in the Joplin area and many of my relatives still live in Missouri.

Main Street Oakland County’s Manager, Bob Donohue, is helping organize the donation effort. Donohue has been in touch with the Mayor of Joplin, Mike Woolston, who provided a list of things needed. The list includes everything from wheelbarrows, to pet food, to power tools.

They'll collect the items at 11 drop off centers around Oakland County.

Absent these items, Mayor Woolston said money would be the biggest help:

"We’re benefiting from tremendous generosity from people all over the country, but if people can give cash, that’s the best way to help us right now."

The Missouri Department of Public Safety has set up a website directing people to where they can donate.

And if you want to volunteer in the Joplin area, you can find more information from the United Way.

Utility crews from Ohio and Indiana are helping crews restore electricity in Michigan today. Consumers Energy says around 70,000 homes and businesses in Mid-Michigan are without power following severe storms in the area Sunday afternoon. That's down from 108,000 originally.

Jay Jacobs is with Consumers Energy. They’re working to restore power to tens of thousands of people near the cities of Lansing and Battle Creek.

NOAA

UPDATE 9:51 pm: Officials in Joplin, Missouri now report at least 122 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the tornado.

 

In Joplin, Missouri, at least 117 people were killed by an F4 tornado and more than 1,000 are unaccounted for, according to the New York Times.

It's the worst tornado to hit the United States in 64 years (181 people were killed by a tornado in Woodward, Oklahoma in 1947), and it surpasses the death toll of Michigan's worst tornado which struck in 1953.

The 1953 Flint-Beecher Tornado killed 116 people in a community just north of Flint. The F5 tornado is listed as the country's 10th deadliest tornado by NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

The tornado had winds in excess of 200 miles per hour, was 800 yards wide, and traveled on a path for 27 miles. From NOAA:

So great a number were killed by the monstrous tornado that the National Guard Armory building, along with other shelters, was turned into a temporary morgue. The scene of bodies pouring into the Armory (as an intermittent light rain poured outside) was incredibly bleak and horrifying, especially for the families and friends of the victims. At least 100 people waited outside into the rainy night before they could move inside to try and identify the bodies.

User: Ozarks Red Cross / Flickr

The Red Cross of Washtenaw County is prepared to send volunteers to Joplin, Mo. where a tornado killed at least 117 people. The Red Cross chapter in Ann Arbor is already deploying one of its 150 volunteers to the disaster area.

Ashley Cieslinski is the Emergency Services Director of Washtenaw County’s Red Cross. She says Red Cross chapters across Michigan are prepared to help with relief efforts. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The city of Grand Rapids is joining efforts to help victims of major flooding and deadly tornados in the Southern United States.

Mayor George Heartwell urged people to give whatever they’re able to afford.

 “I feel so strongly that the suffering of any people anywhere needs to be our suffering. As long as there are people in need and we have the ability and the capacity to help address that need, it’s critical for us to do that.”

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued a "Tornado Watch" for much of Michigan until 10 p.m. tonight. A "tornado watch" means conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area.

The Michigan Counties included in the watch are:

Today's midwest storm
Screen grab from the Weather Underground / weatherunderground.com

The storm passing through the Midwest today has a similar look to the storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10th, 1975.

The 1975 storm had an extremely low pressure at its center, which generated winds similar to a category 2 hurricane. The storm in 1975 dropped to 978 millibars (mb) when it passed over James Bay in Ontario.

 The National Weather Service issued numerous tornado warnings this afternoon, as severe storms rolled across Michigan.  No actual tornados were confirmed.

 A Michigan State University researcher says it’s time to reconsider how severe weather warnings are issued.

 Research Bob Drost says only about 63 percent of people take weather warnings seriously.