Anniversary of the Kalamazoo Tornado

Anniversary of the Kalamazoo Tornado

I have been trying to find more info on the weather for the rest of the area on May 13th 1980 (and from my addled memory) but the Kalamazoo storm keeps popping up.  If any of you were in the Kalamazoo area during that day feel free to chime in.  Kyle and Marlee from WOOD did a nice report on it last night at 7pm.

The Kalamazoo Tornado of 1980 struck downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, on May 13, 1980. The tornado, which touched down at 4:09 pm, was rated F3 on the Fujita scale. The tornado killed 5 people and injured 79. Damage was estimated at $50,000,000.

The tornado left a path of destruction 11 miles (18 km) long during its approximately 20-minute duration.  It was notable for having struck the heart of downtown, damaging or destroying many notable buildings, parks, and landmarks. The massive F3 caused a power outage so extensive, phone companies pleaded for people to only use phones for emergencies. In total, the storm caused 5 deaths, 79 injuries, and about 1,200 people were left homeless.

Only twenty-five minutes had elapsed, but the devastation left in the tornado’s 11-mile wake was considerable: five people dead, seventy-nine injured, and over fifty million dollars in total property damage. Governor William Milliken, walking through the area only hours later, remarked, “it reminds me of a bombed-out city.”

City’s Worst Disaster

(cite: Kalamazoo Public Library)

When the tornado first struck over the relatively open terrain west of Kalamazoo, it caused only minor damage to trees, fences, and power poles. This changed dramatically once the storm entered the city limits. Homes were leveled in the Westwood residential district, and monuments were overturned at Mountain Home Cemetery. The gymnasium at St. Augustine Elementary School was severely damaged. Fortunately, school had already been dismissed, so most children were at home when the tornado struck.

Bronson Park, the two-acre cultural center of the city, and also the home of numerous century-old oak trees, was also hit. Twenty-six of those trees were downed or damaged, including the one which had shaded Abraham Lincoln when he addressed Kalamazoo in 1856. The roof of the nine-story ISB Building (today the Comerica Building) was ripped away, and its glass exterior was almost completely destroyed; only a handful of its windows remained intact.

Much of the back brick wall of the seven-story Gilmore Brothers Department Store was removed in one clean slice, depositing a six-foot high pile of bricks in the adjacent alley. In a parking structure nearby, cars were flipped over, their windows popped out by changing air-pressure. Kalamazoo Mayor Edward Annen Jr. commented: “This is the worst disaster our city has ever seen, but we’ll come back from this.”


Here is a video captured by Workers at the Sound Room (a downtown hi-fi shop) who made this historic videotape of the 1980 tornado and its aftermath. “This is the first amateur color VHS video recording of a killer tornado in the United States using a RCA color video camera and attendant recorder.”  This was the premiere place to buy stereo equipment back in those days – I bought a system there in 1978.


 

Below are photos from the Kalamazoo Public Library.

(click to enlarge)

Kalamazoo Center. Looking toward Michigan Ave. from in front of the ISB Building.
Farmer’s Alley. Rear of Gilmore’s Department Store.
Farmer’s Alley. Rear of Gilmore’s Department Store.
 St. Augustine Cathedral.
St. Augustine Cathedral.
Taken from the south side of Bronson Park (Presbyterian Church area). Looking towards the ISB Building.
Taken from the south side of Bronson Park (Presbyterian Church area). Looking towards the ISB Building.

Water Street, between Park and Westnedge.
Water Street, between Park and Westnedge.
Northwest corner of Park and Michigan – Federal Building.
Northwest corner of Park and Michigan – Federal Building.
From the roof of the First National Bank Building, looking south at the Gilmore Building.
From the roof of the First National Bank Building, looking south at the Gilmore Building.
Farmers Alley, back of Gilmore Building.
Farmers Alley, back of Gilmore Building.

 

Here is the path the tornado took beginning at 4pm – ending at 4:25

Kzoo-tornado

Forecast Maps

HRRR and Futurecast models runs are for 18 hours beginning at 7am – a second model run begins at 3pm

 






Day and Week Planner

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Point Forecasts

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Forecast Discussion

(No graphics from the Detroit NWS Office yet)

Marquette
Marquette
Gaylord
Gaylord
Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids

Rain Forecast
Rain Forecast
Cloud Cover
Cloud Cover

Fair weather will prevail through the weekend with only a slight chance of showers on Saturday. Showers are also possible by Tuesday.

SHORT TERM…

Quiet weather in the near term with upper low across eastern Canada, upper ridge axis over central Plains and fast NW flow through the Great Lakes. Only light showers expected in middle level warm advection pattern on Saturday as moisture is limited.

Temperatures tonight and Saturday night will dip into the mid to upper 30s but some clouds and dew points in the upper 30s will prevent frost except in the very coldest places across the north.

LONG TERM…

A gradual moderating trend of temperatures will continue early next week as a sfc ridge continues to build in Monday and an upper level ridge also builds in Monday through Tuesday. A warm front may cause a few showers to develop Monday night into Tuesday but most of the showers and perhaps a few storms should stay further north to northwest of our area.

H5 heights reaching around 575-578 dm and h8 temps up to near 16C by Tuesday afternoon suggest high temps by then could flirt with the 80 degree mark. Unseasonably warm weather should continue with high temps near 80 again for Wednesday.

It is becoming increasingly likely that a return to temperatures closer to normal will occur late next week as several runs of the gfs have suggested that a back door cold front will slip through Wednesday night or Thursday. It was noted that the 12z ecmwf also suggested this will occur Thursday. Once that occurs and sfc winds become east to ne it would seem that temps will return to closer to normal for this time of year late next week. The front may also cause development of a few showers late next week.


6 on "Anniversary of the Kalamazoo Tornado"

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Mookie

Two above average days in a row with many more upcoming!

SlimJim
While much of next week looks to be warm it should be noted that it is not all that unusual for it to get warm in mid May. There will be no records set next week as the record highs for Monday to Wednesday are 91,89 and 91. The sun… Read more »
Mookie

The most unusual thing about next week could be low temperatures in the low to mid 60’s for mid May! Wonder if that means humid as well

Sandy (Hudsonville)

It is 100% humidity here this evening & you can feel it. I am hoping it drops for the race in the morning. I don’t run but my daughter does.

SlimJim
On May 13th 1980 there was a warm front across southern Michigan. In Grand Rapids the temperatures were in the low to mid 50’s with fog and a NE to E wind. At 2 PM the temperature in Grand Rapids was 55° with a east wind at 3PM it was… Read more »
Sandy (Hudsonville)

MV Thanks for all the info & the video on the Kalamazoo tornado of 1980. I remember it. My friend was at my house that afternoon & our kids were playing. Her husband worked in downtown Kalamazoo & the windows blew out of his office.

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