Palm Sunday Tornado Anniversary

April 11th, 2014 at 1:20 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

  Today is the 49th 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 fatality 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. That year we had record snowfall and it was quite cold in March.  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.

17 Responses to “Palm Sunday Tornado Anniversary”

  1. TomKap (Michigan & Fuller - GR) says:

    I can recall being told by someone about the Tornado possibilities that evening. The odd thing is that it was completely sunny with a deep blue sky…except for the Western sky. There was a very dark/black line of clouds on the horizon. The contrast was amazing.
    Of course, later on the ‘possibility’ became reality.
    I wish I could remember more…but I guess my old age is starting to take it’s toll on my memories.

    We just didn’t have the News services we have today back then. Nor the weather warning systems either. I guess I recall reading about all the damage the next day in the newspaper.

    1. GunLakeDeb says:

      I just realize that I had my “events” mixed up – I had previously talked about “snow after a tornado”; now that I did some digging, it was the 1967 tornado that hit South Congregational Church that I remember. The tornado took a huge bite right out of the sanctuary roof, and yet all the Bibles and hymnals were still neatly in place in the pews!

      The ’65 tornado was far enough from our house, that we didn’t take cover. I remember seeing the destruction a week later, as we drove up Alpine to our cottage.

  2. Skot says:

    My Father told me he watched from somewhere on Michigan St. Hill.

  3. Kerrie says:

    I was 3 years old and lived in Coldwater when the twisters struck. My grandparents owned a marina on Coldwater Lake. They had just returned to their home at the marina when the twister sucked the doors off their car and threw my grandfather against a tree wherein he died. My grandmother suffered many cuts, bruises and broken bone but she survived him. After the storms passed, my mother made her way to the lake to help with the aftermath. On the seawall by our marina she found a 3 year old girl just sitting there. The girl’s parents car had been flipped over several miles away and the twister carried her away and set her down unharmed on the seawall. Our marina and little hotel next to it were competely demolished as well as the loss of my grandfather. Not a great day in history for our family! I still get a little freaked out when the sky turns olive green during a storm!

  4. Kevin (Marshall) says:

    A good source of information regarding this outbreak can be found at the following blog site:

  5. Amy says:

    I was living in Plainwell then, near 8th St and Riverview Dr. We had 6 large maple trees in the front yard and a huge willow in the side yard. I remember mom hustling us into the basement and a tremendous roar. Afterwards, I was the first one outside and I ran back in to tell my parents that “all of our trees were tipped over.” Thankfully, that was not the case: many branches, some quite large, had come down, but the trees are still there today. On the other hand, we had been playing in our pop-up camper just before the storm hit. The camper did not survive: it was twisted so badly that the top couldn’t move up or down. After that they bought a VW camper bus!

  6. kevin. w says:

    If you look at frame #37 for the the 19th we could have a big outbreak of severe weather on this model.

    The Euro is showing just about the samething as well as the Canadian. Looks like this next little cold spell should be the last as the whole country and even Canada really get into the spring weather. Someone is going to get alot of rain where ever the frontal boundary sets up.

    1. GunLakeDeb says:

      Frame 39 looks really ugly for the southeast quadrant of the CONUS

  7. Larry of Hastings, barry co says:

    It was 49 years ago today,(only 5 years old) when I started to take interest in the weather. I remember it was a hot and muggy day. When the storm clouds moved in, you knew it was bad. My father was concern, he was born and raised in Iowa, and seen those big tornadoes before. We had to drive to Grand Rapids before the storm really hit. I remember we were on US131, when the storm hit. My father had the am radio on in the car. Heading back to Hastings, we begin to get reports about damage in Barry County. I have studied this outbreak. On YouTube they have a number of videos about this Palm Sunday storm. My understanding the weather reporting change for ever. There were plenty of warnings, everyone was outdoors enjoying the nice warm day.

  8. Therese Malmberg says:

    I remember that day very well. I was 9 years old and it was my First Communion Day. That morning was about as perfect a spring day as you could wish for. Then that evening black clouds started streaming up from the southwest, black and boiling, moving like a squadron of fighter jets. They were FAST and purposeful. I had never seen clouds like that before. The sunset was garish mud yellow. We lived on the west side of Kalamazoo and it is very possible that the tornado that hit north of town went over the house. I can remember the trees starting to bend, particulary a big 2-ft diameter basswood, and my dad hollering “Get to the Basement NOW.” That’s when I became obsessed with tornadoes and as soon as I was old enough I started taking Skywarn training classes. I didn’t see my first actual tornado until 2008 when a EF-1 came through Paw Paw.

  9. Terry Bowersox says:

    I was a member of the Wyoming Jaycee’s and we were asked to mobilize a group of members and went to the scene, around Alpine Church Rd, Alpine Ave, 5 or 6 mile road and the Westgate Village area to check on all homes and people what we could locate! Remember getting home about 5 AM, sleeping a hour or so, then to work! The devastation was incredible!

  10. Brian (Grandville) says:

    I have enjoyed reading all of your experiences of that day. I am in Michigan City right now, was anyone around here on that day, any thoughts.

  11. Jeremy (Three Rivers) says:

    No memories to share here, I missed out on that one. I wasn’t born until decades later…

  12. Kevin (Marshall) says:

    Link to photos of damage around Coldwater lake and Kinderhook:

  13. Larry of Hastings, barry co says:

    In 1967, we had some big storms: blizzard and tornadoes. From 1965 to 1974, we had a lot of active weather here in west Michigan. I am sure I have missed some other years. More than likely we will go through another cycle of extreme storms. Since Palm Sunday 1965, at the age of 5, I stopped being afraid of storms, and started learning all I could about the weather. When I was 14, I became a news hound, when they had the WaterGate hearings on TV. People tell me I am not normal, because I like the weather and news. Then I ask them, what is normal? haha

  14. Dale Williams says:

    I will always remember the damage from this tornado that crossed Alpine Ave at 6 Mile Rd, near the Swan Inn…the thing that stands out the most is seeing the high tension power lines laying in the field twisted and coiled up like pretzels. My uncle took us for a ride to see the damage at Alpine & 6 Mile…I always remember the cops barking “Move that Mercury up” when my uncle, driving his ’62 Monterey, hesitated too long while we were gawking at the damages. When we got to school on Monday, one of my classmates told us about his father, having just installed a new siren at the Alpine Fire Station, attempted to set off the siren. It didn’t work, so he went outside to check on it, only to discover that it had been damaged by the tornado already! My cousin and her husband(her fiance at the time) had been drivin on Alpine when they saw it coming…they stopped and ran for the ditch and laid down til it passed. Her earrings and purse were ripped from her body as they ran for cover. Their car was carried off by the twister…not sure if they ever found the car or not. All in all, a very scary event that will always be remembered!

  15. Dale Williams says:

    Another thing I remember is how cold and windy it was after the storm…it was gray and gloomy when we were checking out the damage at Alpine & 6 Mile. It wes hard to believe it had been so warm just a day earlier… obviously the warm and cold fronts had caused the tornadoes to form. I remember some of the talk about the damages elsewhere in the Ottawa/Kent area, but the Comstock Park area damage was what left such a strong impression on me. I remember how empty the area just east of Alpine looked near 6 mile….those twisted up high voltage wires and fragments of the towers seemed like the most visible things left in the immediate path of the tornado to the east. Part of the top of one tower was dangling in the wind as it hung from the lower portion of its base in the middle of the rubble. A scary sight for an 11 yr old kid awestruck by the fury of the storm. The devistation was the subject of many conversations for some time afterwards, especially after my cousin related her scary encounter with the twister.

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