We don’t see a lot of tornadoes in our area, but they do happen in Michigan. It was on Palm Sunday, 48 years ago today, April 11, 1965, that 47 tornadoes broke out in several Midwest states—including here in Kent County—killing and injuring hundreds of people.
That F4 tornado traveled over 20 miles north of Grand Rapids and caused five deaths and injured almost 150 people. Thirty-four homes were destroyed and nearly 200 others damaged near the northern suburbs of Comstock Park and Alpine. Damage amounts were estimated at almost $15 million.
Are you ready if another strikes? This week, April 7-13, is severe weather awareness week. And the Michigan State Police are asking residents to ensure their safety and reduce damage by practicing emergency preparedness and response procedures for all types of severe weather.
Tornadoes, floods, thunder and lightning storms and extreme heat are can occur at any time. Spring and summer brings fast-changing weather conditions, increasing the potential for severe weather. Steps can be taken to prepare before severe weather strikes to minimize damage and ensure safe evacuation or shelter such as understanding severe weather warnings and terms, preparing an emergency supply kit, creating an emergency plan and creating an emergency contact list.
In 2012, Michigan residents experienced a significant amount of severe weather events including six tornadoes and 15 flooding events that resulted in two deaths and four injuries to Michigan residents and caused over $210 million in damage statewide. The Dexter tornado alone, with winds that reached 140 mph, destroyed four homes and damaged over 200 businesses. In July, severe weather combined with excessive heat left over 300,000 people without power.
“Unpredictable weather is a common threat to Michigan residents during the spring and summer months,” said Capt. Chris Kelenske, commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD). “It is important to be prepared and have a plan in place before severe weather occurs. By taking a few steps now, you can be better prepared and assist in saving lives.”
Severe Weather Safety Tips:
• Prepare an emergency kit that contains food, drinking water, maps, sanitation items, family documents, prescription medications, flashlights and extra batteries.
• Have a battery powered NOAA Weather Radio easily accessible to listen for Evacuation Orders, updates and severe weather warnings.
• Talk to your family about possible severe weather hazards, have a plan to communicate, know where to shelter and know the evacuation routes.
• Know the risks of severe weather before you go to bed, have your emergency supplies easily accessible in case severe weather occurs at night.
• Store important documents and materials in a waterproof container that is easily accessible in case of flooding.
What to do when a tornado warning is issued for your area:
• Quickly move to shelter in the basement or lowest floor of a permanent structure.
• In homes and small buildings, go to the basement and get under something sturdy, like a workbench or stairwell. If a basement is not available, go to an interior part of the home on the lowest level. A good rule of thumb is to put as many walls between you and the tornado as possible.
• In schools, hospitals, and public places, move to the designated shelter areas. Interior hallways on the lowest floors are generally best.
• Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. Broken glass and wind blown projectiles cause more injuries and deaths than collapsed buildings. Protect your head with a pillow, blanket, or mattress.
• If you are caught outdoors, a sturdy shelter is the only safe location in a tornado.
• If you are boating or swimming, get to land and seek shelter immediately.
For additional severe weather safety tips, visit www.michigan.gov/emhsd or click link below for a complete sever weather preparedness packet.