Palm Sunday Tornadoes

April 11th, 2013 at 12:01 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

  Today is the 48th anniversary of the famous Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of April 11, 1965. It was the second-biggest tornado outbreak in world history. This is a picture of a rare double-tornado near Elkhart, Indiana. This twin-tornado moved into the Midwest Trailer Park, where 33 people lost their lives. There were 271 fatalities that day and 1500 were injured. 47 tornadoes were reported in five states, including 12 in Michigan. An F4 tornado moved from Ottawa Co. near Allendale through Walker and Comstock Park (crossing Alpine Ave. near Six Mile Road. The 21-mile long twister caused 5 fatalities and 142 injuries. That tornado crossed the path of the 1956 Standale Tornado on Samrick just north of West River Dr in Comstock Park. Two F4 tornadoes struck Branch and Hillsdale Counties 30 minutes apart with 21 lives lost. 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. An F4 tornado north of Lansing left one person dead and there was a tornado fataility 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. Please leave a comment if you have a personal story to tell about that dreadful Sunday. Final note: Here’s a radar loop of the storms that produced the hail from Holland and S. Haven east across Lower Michigan last Tuesday (4/6/2010).  Hail up to golfball sized fell.  This thread has been moved up from last year and new comments start with #18.

57 Responses to “Palm Sunday Tornadoes”

  1. La Vera Chapel says:

    I remember this day very well, I was only 10 1/2 years old. My parents had to visit a funeral home that day and my cousin and I were at my house alone. We lived on Dorrance road. We were listening to the radio, to take cover. Scared out of our minds….we had no place to go, we only had a ditch, so headed for it….no tornado came near us but we could see the tornadoes south of us. Which I knew it wasn’t far. I was scared about my parents, but thankfully they called us and said that they were going to Coldwater Lake to help the victims there. They were gone most of the night and they told us the damage that it had caused…just unbelievable. That is the only time I was ever that close to one..and I thanked my lucky stars it didn’t come our way, because believe me, that ditch was not deep at all.

  2. KSEA Caledonia-Cutlerville says:

    That is a very eerie picture, the double tornado, gives you chills just looking at the picture, could not imagine seeing something like that in real life. It would be simply amazing at the same time horrifying

  3. Mark Paradine says:

    Remember them just like they were yesterday.I lived on Copland rd in Kinderhook We saw one of them coming over the Corwins barn about a half mile from the farm house we lived in, after that it was a noisey long stay in the basment untill it was over.It looked in places as if bombs had went off, just could not believe the destruction that it had caused or the lose of lives. To this day I hear anything about a tornado warning I am off to cover. My kids still to this

    day do not have the same fear or sence of danger that I saw first hand back in 1965 Palm Sunday !!!!

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      Thanks for the comment, Mark.

  4. kevin. w says:

    Bill any word on the two major earthquakes in Indonesia. I’ve been reading that they changed the tsunami watch to a warning as of 7:30 this morning and that the water is now starting to recede along the coast. I’ve only gotten bits and pieces of this from msnbc and cnn. Any thoughts on this as news is just coming in from that area.

  5. Jack S. says:

    Bill, I have the same picture of the Palm Sunday tornado hanging up in my living room. The home on the left side of the picture was part of the Kunderd Gladioli and flower Farm located on route 33 on the north side of Goshen, Indiana. In the basement of that house was a family to include a 3 year old girl that would later become my wife. Thankfully the tornado spared the home and the farm, but as you know others in the area weren’t so lucky. After the tornados went through the local officials wanted to set up a temporary morgue on the farm, but the buildings were are ready full with bulbs being prep for the spring planting.

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      Thanks so much for the comment, Jack.

  6. Bob Hartig says:

    I was nine years old and living in Niles, MI, at the time, just 20 miles or so from the northern Indiana storm paths. That outbreak left a profound impression on me. A couple years ago I spoke with Paul Huffman, the retired Elkhart Truth photographer who took the famous “twin-funnels” picture as one in a series of six. It was a fascinating conversation with Paul and his wife, Elizabeth! Paul told me that he didn’t realize the tornado had split in two until after he developed the film; he said the rightmost funnel had filled his viewfinder, and that was all he saw at the time. Imagine his surprise when that image materialized for him in his home darkroom! Paul mentioned several other points of interest from that day and also from his subsequent interview by Dr. Ted Fujita. I hope we never see anything like that event again in this area.

  7. Dave H. says:

    I was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Base and was home for the weekend in Grand Rapids. I headed back to Chicago that afternoon. Tornado warnings all the way back to the base. Dodging tornados all over the place. I am now 70 years old and will never get that trip out of my mind.

  8. fixxxer says:

    lets see how much our sirens get used this season.

  9. Bob J. says:

    My family and I were on a trip to Washington, DC and were on the PA turnpike that Sunday afternoon. We passed a slow moving Bus and next morning we saw a picture in the Washington Post of that bus which had been flattened by a tornado not too far from where we passed it. I don’t know how many people, if any, were killed or injured. Still a vivid memory for me!

  10. Jerry S. (Lansing) says:

    Remember that day well. I was 12 at the time and lived about 2 miles southeast of the F4 that hit in Clinton County, just south of DeWitt. I can still hear my folks talking about the weather news over TV and radio that evening. I think they were more scared than I was at the time.

  11. Kevin (Marshall) says:

    Here are some photos if the damage around Kinderhook and Coldwater Lake :

  12. Jeff B. (Gowen) says:

    I remember this day like it was yesterday. I was in the basement with my mom and baby brother. I could hear the wind roaring outside and debris hitting the house. Then all of a sudden, the basement window broke. I was sitting directly underneath it. Glass and debris came raining down on me. I fell to the floor and cut my leg. To this day I can still see the scar. When the storm was over, I couldn’t believe all the damage and debris. I distinctly remember seeing the siding on the west side of our home was damaged. It was like somebody came by and took a sandblaster to the wood siding. But in all this, I can’t believe that nobody has any pics of this F4 tornado. I would of loved to have seen it. Then I went with my dad to the area to help. Our favorite restaurant was completely gone. Hope to never experence it again. And lastly, I even remember the song that was on the radio. (Jan and Dean, Dead mans curve).

  13. Jeff B. (Gowen) says:

    I forgot to add, we lived about 1/2 mile from Swan Inn restaurant, in the Westgate area. My Mom and Dad still live in the same house. There are still neighbors who still live in the area to this day.

  14. Nancy Swanson says:

    I was 12 at the time of the PS tornadoes. We lived about 7 miles north of where they went through Hillsdale County and, though our electricity went out, we weren’t aware of what had happened until the next day. Many years later, my husband and I lived in the Goshen area that had taken a direct hit. Our house had been built with a *tornado corner* in the basement–a reinforced ceiling and walls that would give protection if such a thing happened again.

  15. Linda says:

    Was anyone near Quincy, MI? My Grandmother was killed this day

  16. Sarah (Merrills) Piper says:

    I remember this day well. I will probably never forget it. I was 11 years old. we were traveling in a car, with my mom, 3 sisters, 1 brother and my 86 year old aunt. I remember we were trying to get home before the storm hit, but we got trapped on pine Island dr. We lived on six mile rd between division and pine Island. My dad was trying to get home from another destination to make sure we were alright, when the tornado picked his car up and then dropped it smashing it.
    A man who lived near there seen it happen, and gave my dad his car to go check on us. no questions asked. we Returned the car 2 days later and the man refused any gratuity for helping dad.

  17. Swatz_Zoo(Cedar Springs) says:

    Unfortunately I wasn’t born on this day but it’s certainly a day I will never, ever forget 20yrs today my dad passed away on Easter Sunday unexpectedly.

  18. SlimJim NW GR (1) says:

    1965 was a cold spring not too much different then this spring. April 11,1965 was the first day of that spring that it got any warmer then 60 (we still have not gotten above 60 here in GR yet in 2013) I lived in Bay City at that time for some reason I remember we had the whole family over for dinner as we were kind of celebrating an early Easter that year as my older brother had to report back for duty before Easter. As we had more people over then could fit in the house I know my mother was glad it was warm out as she had the younger kids play and then eat outside. As I was 15 at the time I was one of the go between from the inside to the out side with the food and drinks ect. Just after we had dinner it started to get dark in the west and south west and my dad said there we some bad storms off to the southwest of us and we should get everything back into the garage and fast as we could. It seemed to take a long time for the storm to reach the east side of the state as we got all of the tables back into the garage and basement and it was still very dark off to the west and southwest but still no rain or wind, ect In fact we were in the house and there were now reports of the tornadoes and still no rain in Bay City yet! After dark that’s when we got some thunder and lightning and very little rain at our house, most of the storm was just to the south of us and we got very little rain and no wind at all. We were very surprised to learn at ll PM that a tornado had hit the SE side on Bay City. I also remembered the next day as well as it was windy that day and we had snow showers. Bottom line is when we get our first few warm days this year we will have to keep an eye out for some storms.
    37° here now and light rain.

    1. GunLakeDeb says:

      Having just read the book about the 1956 Tornado outbreak – they mentioned the cold Spring that year, too; then the unseasonably-warm day that spawned the F-4/F-5 tornadoes.

      My grandparents were driving home from Baldwin on M-37 that Palm Sunday; and came through the Alpine area shortly after the tornado had hit, and just as rescue crews were starting to arrive, so they didn’t stop or take pictures. But I remember them telling of the destruction they had seen, plus the tornado phenomena like a 2 x 4 driven into a telephone pole, or a house with a wall torn away, yet the furniture was untouched…

  19. Ben (Charlotte MI) says:

    After all of this rain, the Drought Monitor better remove that area of “abnormally dry” conditions from my area in Mid Michigan, or it’s gonna be time to fight.

  20. Jim says:

    I was 3 years old and it’s one of my earliest memories. Not the tornado itself, but the aftermath. Most especially there being a bunch of loud men building temporary kneelers for Holy Trinity Church in my father’s workshop.

  21. Jim S.(Saugatuck Twp) says:

    Looks stormy the next couple weeks. The 06Z GFS is off the mark showing a couple snowstorms, but I think it means we’ll be in for a rocky ride the rest of this month.

  22. Paul says:

    We returned from Cadillac that evening along old US 131 and crossed the path of the twister north of Rockford. The sky was yellow and then grew darker. The first thing to fly across the road was a metal lawn chair, and a man was chasing it. We were stopped by down wires near a Marathon gas station. In the swirling darkness, the Marathon sign was slowly lifted out of the ground and placed gently on the side of the road. I was 5 and had seen enough, so I climbed from the back into the front seat and dove next to my parents. Two things kept us safe that day: 1.the tornado had weakened by Rockford. 2.the sheer tonnage of a 1959 Ford.

  23. Kevin says:

    I used to have some maps of the tornado tracks from that outbreak, and of the 1974 outbreak.

    The Palm Sunday outbreak came very close to our house (we lived in Indiana at the time), and we have a lot of photos of the damage that resulted.

  24. Denny Olson says:

    I remember when these hit and my Dad drove us around to see the damage and then out to Ralph Gates’ home in Plainwell to check on his family.
    The two things I remember most were the big red barn on “D” Ave. near the Kalamazoo River that was blown down. Second was the huge WKZO radio tower in Parchment across from my Uncle Buck’s house off of McKinley and North 20th Street that was blown down and resembled a twisted roller coaster.

  25. Holly says:

    I vividly remember Palm Sunday 1965. We were at my grandma’s apartment in Detroit when my teenaged brother called to warn my parents that BAD storms were coming. We immediately drove home (a few miles to the southwest). My father earlier had built a very sturdy two-section toy box (with lots of airholes) about 3 feet tall that he had placed in the southwest corner of the basement. My younger sister and I spent most of that evening sitting in the box with the lid open, but ready to drop the lid if the winds picked up. Later, we learned of the damage done at Devil’s Lake because relatives had a cottage (that wasn’t damaged) on the lake.

  26. DF (SE Mich) says:

    I am reposting what Bill posted in the last tread on the frequency of F3-F5 over the years.

  27. Barb says:

    Does anyone have an idea when it looks as though this cold streak will break for good this spring? I want to open my cottage up north, but not with this weather!

    1. DF (SE Mich) says:

      It looks like we are in for average/ just below average temps for a few days starting around Sunday-Monday finally. CPC is saying below normal through 14 days… Which may mean it will be above average instead :)

    2. Jim S.(Saugatuck Twp) says:

      Looks cold the next two weeks. There are a couple more big storms on the horizion…one will hit in about a week which looks like more rain and a lot of it.

  28. Esther (Comstock Park) says:

    We didn’t know a tornado would come on such a lovely afternoon, but our collie was shaking, so we put him in the basement before leaving for evening services at church. We heard the sirens while at church, and had a hard time returning to our home on Six Mile, trying different routes through Westgate. The damage was incredible, but our dog survived. Our horses were OK as well, although the wood portion of the barn had moved a few inches off the cement foundation. My dad boarded up the windows and we went to bed by candlelight – I was five years old.

    For days, I can remember my job was to carry a small beach bucket and pick up debris from our yard and pasture. Broken glass and nails and other small objects were constantly showing up – we could not go barefoot all summer. There was a steady stream of construction workers repairing our house, and the homes in Westgate. We planted trees and bushes and slowly life returned to its normal routines. We always kept one ear open for the tornado sirens.

    It is amazing how much devastation and change can happen so quickly – it was months and years of work to restore our property and the Comstock Park area to a place where you no longer could recognize the effects of that day. Our family was always grateful that we chose to be worshiping a powerful God that day, and to experience the power of people who stepped in and helped us in so many concrete ways.

  29. Middle of next weeks storm looks very windy as well, TVC to SOO at around 28.99in

    1. Jim S.(Saugatuck Twp) says:

      Windy and wet. GFS takes it over the Soo….ECMWF takes it over the west part of the UP. Both with a lot of cold air and wind on the back side. It could be a brutal day…much worse than today.

      1. Nathan says:

        The SOO?

        1. Lisa (Caledonia) says:

          Sault Ste. Marie, I believe…

  30. kevin. w says:

    I see 3 big storms coming in the next two weeks and it really doesn’t look really pretty. I’m thinking were not going to have a spring this year will just jump right into summer in about a month.

  31. Nathan says:

    About an inch of water in my backyard with maybe a foot at the house next door. Doesn’t look like the rain will let up anytime soon either! The drought is DONE! Anyways, I’m going to run a couple miles, hope I make it. (Was that thunder?)

    1. Nathan says:

      BTW Accuweather Doppler radar is indicating frozen precipitation in NE Kent County… Is anyone from that area experiencing ice or snow… or is Accuweather just an unreliable source all together? :P

      1. Rocky (Rockford) says:

        33 degrees with rain here in Rockford. I expect plenty of sleet and SNOW in Northern Kent county tonight and Friday! Who knew? fixxxer said the SNOW was over for the GR area! How is this possible? I thought fixxxer was always right? I guess this just proves that no one is perfect :)

  32. Rocky (Rockford) says:

    The Boyne Mountain area should be picking up about 4 to 6 inches of SNOW by Saturday! It will the 13th GREAT weekend in a row for skiing! I love it!! It does not get better than this – skiing till MAY!! Keep the COLD and SNOW coming baby!!!!

    1. that doesn’t mean anything other than more people in rural areas and thus more report, there isn’t any increase most likely.

      1. big Daddy BC says:

        It’s nice to see that a pesky thing like data doesn’t get in the way of you forming an opinion. LOL

        1. Bill Steffen says:

          Wish I could say the same for you, BigD:

          Even James Hansen has acknowledged that global temperatures are NOT rising: The five-year mean global temperature has been flat for the last decade… – James Hansen et al.

          The NOAA Drought Task Force concluded:

          “Neither ocean states nor human-induced climate change, factors that can provide long-lead predictability, appeared to play significant roles in causing severe rainfall deficits over the major corn producing regions of central Great Plains.”

    2. Mark (East Lansing) says:

      I commend you for posting data without trying to link it to some unfounded and repeatedly disproven theory.

      1. big Daddy BC says:

        Thanks, Mark.

      2. Bill Steffen says:

        From the National Climate Data Center:

        “Today, nearly all of the United States is reasonably well populated, or at least covered by NOAA’s Doppler weather radars. Even if a tornado is not actually observed, modern damage assessments by NWS personnel can discern if a tornado caused the damage, and if so, how strong the tornado may have been. This disparity between tornado records of the past and current records contributes a great deal of uncertainty regarding questions about the long-term behavior or patterns of tornado occurrence. Improved tornado observation practices have led to an increase in the number of reported weaker tornadoes, and in recent years the number of EF-0 and EF-1 tornadoes have become more prevelant in the total number of reported tornadoes.”

    3. Bill Steffen says:

      From this paper:

      “Dr. Changnon has long advocated the use of “event
      days” because of its mitigation of the impact of reporting
      biases. When tornado days are plotted against year (Fig. 2), the rapid inflation that is apparent in the numbers of reported tornadoes is no longer present.”

      The number of strong tornadoes (EF3 to EF5) which would have been reported in the past shows if anything a downward trend since the 1970s. In Michigan, we had a dozen F4 and F5 tornadoes between 1953 and 1977…and not a single EF4 or EF5 tornado since 1977:

      Read the article. It talked about “tornado chasing” and the increasing population of the U.S. as factors.

      Here’s another article at the SPC website. Look at the 2nd graph:

      1. big Daddy BC says:

        The article I’m linking is looking at overall events, not just EF3 to 5. Overall, the trend is an increase. Sorry.

        1. Bill Steffen says:

          Read my link! It explains why the increase in the number of tornadoes is NOT because there were more tornadoes. It’s because of storm chasers, reporting the same tornado (and counting the same tornado more than once) from multiple locations and the fact that SPC doesn’t have the time to filter out the multiple sightings. EF3-EF5 tornadoes were all counted since the 1950s…EF0 to EF2 tornadoes were not.

          Sorry, every meteorological expert will agree with me. That article was written by Dan McCarthy of the Storm Prediction Center. You can’t have a more credible source – he keeps track of the tornado stats.

          Now read this from the National Climate and Data Center:

          “Today, nearly all of the United States is reasonably well populated, or at least covered by NOAA’s Doppler weather radars. Even if a tornado is not actually observed, modern damage assessments by NWS personnel can discern if a tornado caused the damage, and if so, how strong the tornado may have been. This disparity between tornado records of the past and current records contributes a great deal of uncertainty regarding questions about the long-term behavior or patterns of tornado occurrence. Improved tornado observation practices have led to an increase in the number of reported weaker tornadoes, and in recent years the number of EF-0 and EF-1 tornadoes have become more prevelant in the total number of reported tornadoes.”

  33. Brian(Grandville) says:

    Wow, what a day. The 8 days looks pretty dismal as well. At least I’m not running the a/c yet.

  34. DF (SE Mich) says:

    The rain has pretty much missed A2 and Detroit all day. It was still a brutal day outside. Max temp at my house was 38.

  35. Jerry hoag says:

    Yuk!! This rain!! But look at the bright side!! Everything will green up!! GOD is in control and HE will bring very beautiful flowers from this rain!! So enjoy this rain cause GOD has a purpose for it!!

  36. Rita T. Hodson Hemker says:

    I was 4 and a half and my Mom, who had been cooking chocolate mint pudding on the stove top(my favorite!) made us all go to the basement. All I could think about was that pudding and how it was all going to get blown away and I wouldn’t get any! I was too little to understand the danger of the situation. We were in Coldwater, Michigan.

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