Derecho of May 31, 1998

May 30th, 2014 at 10:01 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

File:May 1998 Derecho Radar Loop.gif May 31st is the anniversary of the famous “derecho” thunderstorm outbreak of 1998.  Around 5 AM that Sunday morning, the storms blasted through West Michigan with winds estimated as high as 130 mph in Grand Haven and Walker.  According to the Storm Prediction Center, this episode ranks as one of the top thunderstorm events in world history!  A large area of significant wind damage occurred from South Dakota all the way to the East Coast.  In Michigan, there were four fatalities and 153 people were injured.  Not a single stoplight was working between Grand Rapids and Baldwin.  The toll would have been much worse if the storms would have come through in the afternoon instead of in the early morning when most people were asleep in their homes. I went out to visit Spencer, S.D. where the worst tornado occurred as the supercells first formed.  That small town was pretty much wiped out.  The supercells eventually formed the line that raced from eastern S.D. to Massachusetts and out into the Atlantic Ocean. Sixteen years later you can still identify swaths where most of the trees were blown over (White Lake exit on US 31 – the Spring Lake Cemetery). Here’s a radar loop from S. Dakota to Michigan. Read more here, here, and here.  More pics. here.  The 1998 storm was a “once in a lifetime event”.   I would be surprised if we saw an event of that intensity (130 mph wind gusts in Grand Haven and Walker) and widespread area again in my lifetime.   Here’s pictures from Grand Haven after the storm.  Note this thread has been moved up from 2012.  This year’s comments start with #27.

Also, check out these old pictures of downtown G.R.

Model update:  Overnight run of the European gives G.R. 1.43″ of rain from late Sun. night to early Tuesday and another 0.85″ of rain on Weds. (and maybe a shower next Friday).  The GFS-lot has 0.90″ for late Sun. night into Tues. AM and 0.67″ of rain on Weds.  The NAM (caribou) is the lowest on rain with 0.32″ from Sun. night into early Tues.

65 Responses to “Derecho of May 31, 1998”

  1. Jack says:

    Wow… This Is…AWESOME!!!!

  2. Barry in Zeeland says:

    Yep, remember it well. I had seen the line of storms coming on the 11 o’clock news so I got out of bed around the time it was supposed to hit and went outside to watch it roll in. We lived right next to the zeeland cityside school at the time with the soccer fields in our back yard so I had a great view to the west, probably not the brightest idea with all that lightning to be standing out there. Only time I can remember actually getting blown on my rear end when the first wind gusts hit. All I could think of was holy smokes this must be a tornado and I ran for the house to get the kids in the basement. Of course later I found out it wasn’t, but back then we didn’t have hand held radars to show you it was just a big bow line of storms. Never seen so many trees down in Zeeland, never seen so many people without power. Every year when we go to Ludington for vacation I always point out to everyone the areas of trees that got leveled on 31. Just an incredible storm!

    1. Brian (Grandville) says:

      I drove 31 north to Ludington the day after, and couldn’t believe the trees down around and just north of Muskegon.

  3. Bernie (At da lakeshore) says:

    I heated my home for 3 years from the wood that fell form that storm.
    I also remember waiting in a big line at the Wishing Well north of Pentwater. It was the closest gas station to Muskegon that had power.

  4. Skot says:

    Remember this well. My Dad was having the house painted and ALL the storm windows and frames were off. We had the old wood frame paynes on the inside. I woke up and it was a little light outside. That rain slapping against the glass is etched (no pun intended) in my mind.
    By the way Bill, there was a good storm I believe in 93 ? It was the last time Ross Perot was running for Prez. I lived at Leonard and Fuller and we had no power for 3 days. Maybe you could look that one up??

    1. whatBillwantstosaybutcant says:

      Or maybe you could look it up Skot.

      1. Skot says:

        Ok. fixxx. wink wink

      1. Skot says:

        Hey Cort Thanks. I believe that was the one. Interesting read.

  5. SlimJim NW GR (1) says:

    I was up in Alpena that weekend and I missed most of that storm. Up there it was very cool the Saturday before the storm (only in the low 50′s to upper 40′s) and while there was some thunder there was not much wind there.
    However my son had a paper route then (back in the good old days when the paper came ever day) and him and my wife we up and getting ready to deliver the paper and even with all of the trees down they still got the paper out to ever one that day!
    SlimJim

  6. Tim (Spring Lake) says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8AGez4hbx0&feature=related
    Another good video of the damage in Grand Haven after the storms had blown through.

  7. Ray Peterson says:

    I remember it well. Was up early in the morning, watched it pass through. Worst of it went south af me, devistated large area west of Stanton. Were cleaning up destroyed forests, buildings all summer. We lost power, was restored for an hour or so on Sunday afternoon, went off again and was off for the rest of the week. (Was told Consumer’s unhooked our run to connect another line, forgot to reconnect our line afterward.) Fortunately, we had a generator, but it got pretty old babysitting that thing after a week. Daughter’s high school graduation was cancelled. Other daughter and family were up for the weekend, was going to set up crank-up camper for them, but decided not, and they slept in the livingroom. Camper would have been destroyed for sure.

    1. Brian says:

      Yeah I live in that area that got hit the hardest, no power for 9 days. Took 8 hours just to saw a path down the driveway.

  8. david says:

    I remember that day just moved from Potterville to Charlotte and was delivering papers for CSG. I was in a parking lot in Potterville and seen the wall cloud coming it looked pee green you know like split pee soup. I just in time parked my car so it was facing the same way as the storm was coming rocked my car picked it up and set it back down. After that it only took maybe seconds to go through and it was over so i delivered the rest of my papers wasnt so easy that day .

  9. fixxxer says:

    not going to get another one of these anytime soon.

    1. Skot says:

      Great comment.

      1. fixxxer says:

        because it’s the truth. ;)

    2. Scott (Hartford Van Buren Co.) says:

      That is why Bill said it was a once in a lifetime thing. Do you even read his whole write-up

  10. Randy (SW Walker) says:

    Wow. Has it been that long? Time flies. That had to be back when Fixer went on disability!

  11. Tyler says:

    Hey Bill do you know if the U.P. got hit hard by that storm? I remember a storm in 1998 but I think it was in July of that year that was really bad. I remember we had a downpour, lightning hit our house and hit an electrical fence next door to our house that traveled all the way to the Neighbors barn and caused a fire. Luckily the owner of the barn was out there at the time and stopped the fire before anything happened. The lightning actually changed the whole structure of the area where it hit in the woods in my parents backyard. It blew a hole where it hit throwing out the biggest boulders I have ever seen. I remember all the pictures being off the wall and all the doors were wide open as heavy winds came in. This might have been the storm but not sure. It was in 98 though.

  12. Herb (SE Muskegon) says:

    The Muskegon Chronicle had Once in a century twice in two days for their headline. Muskegon was hit twice by crazy winds in two days. I have all the papers saved up. I’ll always remember this storm.

  13. NutnHoney says:

    I was working at the alpine ave. meijer when it came through and it tore part of the roof off and a tornado went down alpine.

    1. Laurie says:

      Yep! I was just moving into my new mobile home in Sparta just off of Alpine Ave. with my 10 year old son the day of the storm. Boxes everywhere and he was so scared he was holding on for dear life to my shirt tale as I tried scurrying through the house to find candles, flashlight something for light other than lightening. How do you do that in the dark with the boxes containing them all over in no apparent order? I’ll never forget that time. I was without power for five days. I had a gas stove so I made popcorn and ended up sitting in a recliner chair with my son on my lap in front of the picture window eating popcorn and just watched the show. My son got over being so scared.

  14. Meagan says:

    I remember this storm well. We were downtown that night meeting some friends. Lived in Heritage Hill at the time, so we walked home that night, because it was sooo warm. Watched the storm come in. Didn’t think much of it, until the rain started coming in through the windows sideways. Next day, I think the whole city of GR was out… I think we found someplace (Perkins or Big Boy) on maybe Plainfield or 28th that had power. Might have been Knapp’s Corner… but anyway, I think we bought a battery powered TV and some wood for our fireplace that night to stay warm. It worked. Crazy!!

  15. Lori says:

    We Lived on Lake Ave in Grand Haven Township at the time(one of the worst areas) What woke us up was the shades being sucked up against the window screens of the open windows. The wind was howling,our roof was flexing,awful sounds. We froze listening to the thuds of trees coming down scrapping against the house(no basement) The smell of pine was very strong. 3 days no power. A week of clean up just to get out of the driveway. Saw the Red Cross go down our street. Do not want to ever go thru that ever again!

  16. jerry says:

    OH yeah I remember that day…..I stayed up all night waiting for the line of storms to come through……and when they did I was excited!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then after they were done…..I woke the kids and wife and said get in the car we are going to Walker to check out some of the damage……We got some interesting pictures of the damage…..Got alot of pics of my girls standing on trees that had fell over (The tree trunks were bigger than they were!). Not saying it was a good thing for the people who had the damamge but I enjoyed the ride to check it out…At the time I lived in Wyoming……Maybe we will get another one in out lifetime!!!! Is what Bill also said…

  17. mr. negative says:

    Hearing rumors of an “earth-shine” opportunity tonight and tomorrow night. Has anyone found the moon yet?

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      The thin crescent moon has already set. There will be a little earthshine the next couple nights, but earthshine works best when the highest percentage of the Northern Hemisphere are snow-covered and clear, to allow a maximum amount of the sun’s light to bounce off the snow up to illuminate faintly the part of the moon that is not receiving sunlight.

      1. mr. negative says:

        Ok…just checking…thanks

  18. In connection to the moon, just had a big pack of coyotes howl just outside our window in our backyard. Scared the living daylights out of me and my dog was on high alert. Defiantly an scary, cool, eerie sound Lol

  19. And in connection to the Derecho, I remember my parents telling me our power was out for nearly 2 weeks and the pine trees in our yard were completely toast and knocked over

    1. Jacob G says:

      We lived in Byron Center at the time and yes two weeks without power and when it came through it looked like a hurricane. You couldn’t see out a hundred feet it was intense. I was alone at the time with my parents camping. I had to page them to come home. I started watching it from our porch but quickly had to go into our basement. We lost several trees in our yard and one tree pulled our power meter right off our house. I had TWC in the background and woke up at 5 with warnings flying everywhere and I took one look at the radar and I couldn’t believe how fast the line was traveling. I don’t expect I will see this again in my lifetime.

  20. John (Norton Shores) says:

    Boy I hope we don’t ever get anything like that in Michigan again, I like severe storms but losing power for two weeks would be horrible!

    1. My parents said all we did during the day was sitting outside with our neighbors and just talking lol because there wasn’t much else to do after our clean-up. Almost 2 weeks is the longest we have been without power

      1. John (Norton Shores) says:

        Yeah what else would you do, restaurants without power, stores without power, gas stations without power, there would basically be nothing else to do lol

        1. I was looking at a previous commentor from I believe Muskegon and the nearest gas station from Muskegon with power was just north of Pentwater…

        2. John (Norton Shores) says:

          and Bill said there wasn’t a working stop light between Grand Rapids and Baldwin, unbelievable!

        3. Wow! That is incredible. Were you living in Michigan yet or were you in Arkansas?

  21. INDY says:

    Wow 60′s and 70′s coming thee 2nd week of June looks cold below normal!! Stay warm……INDYY!!

    1. Rad (Jenison/Hudsonville) says:

      Sounds Good to Me. Dont have to run the A/C or the furnace!!!

  22. Bill Olson says:

    As bad as Alpine Ave was hit, I was amazed the power at Greenridge Apt was back on a little after 9pm that night

  23. Idk if its just me but Id love to have looked at a power outage map after this. South of US-10 they could have just put: Everyone. Lol

  24. Bald Eagle (Montague) says:

    I remember sleeping thru the whole thing! Woke up & was like, huh guess it was pretty bad! LOL. Sorry I haven’t been on here in awhile. New app doesn’t show comments or let me comment. Miss all the good info from you guys! Have a great night!

  25. Jack says:

    ” NORTHERN LIGHTS” Photo of The Day !! HERE::::: http://www.softservenews.com/photos/large/526843_509608042430394_1564175614_n.jpg. BEAUTIFUL!!! INDEED!! Stay CUEDDD….

  26. Jack says:

    With The Crystal CLEAR Skies Tonight. I got to witness a VERY Bright ISS Flyover at 1:11 am. Only 2 Minute in Duration but Still Was ENJOYABLE !!! Lots of Chances To View the ISS,IN JUNE…Some as Long as 6 minutes !!! Skies Permitting Of Course, SOOOO STAY CUEDDD, Keep Looking UP & GOD BLESS !! :-)

  27. Rocky (Rockford) says:

    Keep this GREAT weather rolling! I love it! Golf here I come! ROCK n ROLL lives forever!

  28. dereks says:

    I remember my dog waking me up and turning on the tv to see a tornado warning for much of lower Michigan. Not everyday that you see a tornado warning for almost every county in lower Michigan. My parents house and yard didn’t recieve too much damage, but the neihbors sure did. It happened at the end of my Junior year so it was nice to have an early summer. I also remember my parents glass on their sliders flexing in and out with the wind. What a storm that was.

  29. Dikehopper (Fennville) says:

    The series on Grand Rapids’ urban renewal looks *most* interesting.

    I think that some of the newer architecture that replaced the old architecture was almost criminal. Like disco, faddish design that quickly became an eyesore.

    I grew up in Lowell. In the mid-1950′s, when I was about eight years old, I spent many Saturday afternoons in downtown GR. It was still thriving, lots of department stores, little independent stores, restaurants, movies, etc. It was a really neat place.

    Then the convenience of suburban malls took downtown’s business. It almost died.

    And now things have turned around and downtown seems to be booming again. I wonder how many cities have managed to turn around their downtowns as GR has?

    Over the decades, here in western Michigan, I have had visitors from across the country and from Europe. A common comment from visitors from everywhere has been “I had no idea.” A well-traveled woman from Europe, “Is everyone here so polite?” A man who immigrated from Lebanon, “West Michigan is America’s best-kept secret.” And so on.

    Over the decades, West Michigan has become much more racially and ethnically diverse. For whatever reason, W. Michigan seems to have done a much better job at assimilation than many other parts of the country.

    For those who have lived here all of their lives, it’s very easy to not understand and appreciate what we have here. To take it for granted.

    And it’s a *great* place to raise kids.

    I’ve lived and worked across the country. I always knew I would retire here.

    Sigh. Just looked at some more comments here.

    How many of you guys knew that every comment goes into Bill’s email Inbox? When you post a comment with zero content, all you do is suck up Bill’s time for no reason.

  30. fixxxer says:

    i love how this blog likes to remember events that will never happen again.

    1. GunLakeDeb says:

      a. It was epic
      b. Reminds folks to NOT take the word “derecho” lightly. Just because it’s not a tornado doesn’t mean people can’t be hurt and property damaged. We may never see one that fierce again (I sure hope not) – but we WILL have derechos.

    2. Kevin(Rockford) says:

      Do you have the lotto numbers for next week, Son of Carnac?

    3. Rad (Jenison/Hudsonville) says:

      If this Blog makes you unhappy, why come in here ? Just to complain ?

      1. Rocky (Rockford) says:

        YES!

  31. *Sigh* Lol

    RICH LOW-LEVEL MOISTURE WILL BE DRAWN NWD THROUGH PRE-FRONTAL WARM
    SECTOR ALONG A 35-40 KT SWLY LLJ ASSOCIATED WITH DEVELOPING CYCLONE
    WITH MID-UPPER 60S DEWPOINTS AS FAR NORTH AS THE UPPER MS VALLEY AND
    GREAT LAKES AREAS. HOWEVER…WIDESPREAD CLOUDS…WEAK LAPSE RATES
    AND AREAS OF ONGOING SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS WILL LIKELY LIMIT
    MLCAPE TO AOB 1000 J/KG OVER MUCH OF THIS REGION. SCATTERED STORMS
    ARE EXPECTED TO CONTINUE DEVELOPING DURING THE DAY WITHIN THE WEAKLY
    CAPPED WARM SECTOR. VERTICAL SHEAR WILL REMAIN MODEST AOB 35 KT
    SUPPORTING MULTICELL CONVECTION. DEPENDING ON HOW MUCH BOUNDARY
    LAYER DESTABILIZATION OCCURS…A FEW STORMS MIGHT BECOME CAPABLE OF
    PRODUCING MAINLY ISOLATED STRONG WIND GUSTS…BUT OVERALL THREAT
    APPEARS TOO MARGINAL AT THIS TIME TO WARRANT MORE THAN 5% SEVERE
    PROBABILITIES.

  32. Sandi says:

    Boy I remember this vividly. Flattened dozens of trees in my neighborhood. Sure hope we never get anything like that again.

  33. John (Norton Shores) says:

    There could be a few severe thunderstorms on Monday, but it looks like by Wednesday and Thursday we could even see an MCS type event.

    .LONG TERM…(MONDAY NIGHT THROUGH FRIDAY)
    ISSUED AT 330 AM EDT SAT MAY 31 2014

    MID LEVEL SHORTWAVE AND SFC COLD FRONT WILL BE MOVING EAST THROUGH
    THE AREA ON MONDAY NIGHT SO WILL CARRY LIKELY POPS FOR SHOWERS AND
    TSTMS. SOME OF THE STORMS MAY BE STRONG OR PERHAPS SEVERE BEFORE
    MIDNIGHT.

    MODELS HAVE BEEN TRENDING TOWARD A PREDOMINATELY DRY TUESDAY WITH
    STABLE WESTERLY LOW LEVEL FLOW DEVELOPING BEHIND THE DEPARTING SFC
    COLD FRONT. HAVE KEPT CHANCE POPS IN THE FCST FOR NOW GIVEN THE
    PRESENCE OF THE UPPER TROUGH… BUT BEST CHANCE OF SHOWERS/TSTMS
    SHOULD BE OVER NRN AND ERN LWR MI AS SECONDARY SFC TROUGH/COLD FRONT
    MOVES SOUTH. SW LWR MI TYPICALLY STAYS DRY IN THIS REGIME. SKINNY
    RIDGE OF HIGH PRESSURE MOVES IN FOR TUESDAY NIGHT AND WILL KEEP THE
    FCST DRY.

    FCST CONFIDENCE IS LOW WEDNESDAY THROUGH FRIDAY DUE TO UNCERTAINTY
    REGARDING POSITION OF THE MAIN BAROCLINIC ZONE AND TIMING/POSITION
    OF WAVES MOVING ALONG IT. MODEL CONSENSUS IS TO HAVE A WEST-EAST
    ORIENTED WARM FRONT REMAINING SEMI-STATIONARY JUST SOUTH OF
    MICHIGAN. HOWEVER SHORTWAVES EMBEDDED WITHIN A ZONAL FLOW ALOFT
    COULD BRIEFLY PULL THE FRONT NORTH INTO SRN LWR MI AND SUPPORT THE
    POTENTIAL OF AN MCS OR TWO.

    &&

  34. steven (Derby Lake) says:

    When I went through Mount Pleasant yesterday about 6:45 pm it was 88 degrees. I got to Tri City race track a few miles northeast of Auburn (other side of Midland) and it dropped to 70 degrees with a northeast sustained wind.

  35. Jeremy (Three Rivers) says:

    And as always even that famous storm missed us. Not that we wanted it. Though we always seem to miss big events in this area… Always just to the north or south.

  36. I honestly don’t think I can remember a severe weather season that was this quiet for West Michigan. Usually by now it seems we have gotten one nice line of storms with warnings on it, but this year I have not been included in 1 severe warned area here in Byron Center. And I have only been in 1 Severe Thunderstorm Watch but never got anything. Crazy quiet this year. Maybe June will pick up slack a little bit

  37. GunLakeDeb says:

    The old/new pictures of downtown GR are interesting – but I mourn the loss of some beautiful architecture that was replaced by boring, sterile “boxes”.

  38. DarrenSVRstm ( Cedar S ) says:

    May 28, 2014 at 5:15 pm
    Hey Kyle we are getting passed by again on the storm front , nice line of storms moving through Indy. I’m starting to think we may just miss most of the storms this season , I know we have time but the storm saw has had a proper tune up from ” Old Man Winter” in fact I think he has a home in the lake. I hope I’m wrong I really do….!

    I hope my comment from the other day is not becoming our reality….:(

    Look a the SPC : Day 4-8
    http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/exper/day4-8/

    1. Hopefully not but that’s been the case so far this year. Seems the only thing Michigan is good for is snow and cold temps haha

  39. Jerry Hoag says:

    I remember this day very well…..I stayed awake the whole night and watched the Derecho coming at us….then when it hit us I of course woke the family and had them go to the basement to get out of trees falling chances. Then when we could got them into my car and drove around to check out all the damage….Got tons of pictures..

  40. Sandy(Hudsonville) says:

    I remember this waking us up & thinking it was a tornado. We had huge tree branches come down on the house. No damage otherwise.

Leave a Reply