Each year, the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness sponsors Severe Weather Awareness Week to highlight the need to be prepared in the event of severe weather. This year it runs April 10-16. As residents in Portland, Michigan learned last year, severe weather doesn’t always give you a lot of time to prepare so let’s get ready now and make the severe weather season a safe one.
Save the Date: 2016 statewide tornado drill
Local and state emergency management officials are asking Michiganders to take action to prepare by participating in a statewide tornado drill at 1:30 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, April 13, 2016.
Government agencies, organizations, families and individuals are encouraged to be a part of this statewide preparedness activity, but are not required to do so. Nearly all state of Michigan facilities will be participating.
While tornadoes can occur during any time of the year, they are especially common during the late spring and early summer months. As one of nature’s most violent storms, they can devastate homes and property in just seconds.
The average lead time for tornadoes to develop is 10 to 15 minutes, which means citizens need to be ready to react quickly when a warning is issued. By taking a few extra steps and participating in the statewide tornado drill, citizens and businesses will be ready well in advance if a tornado ever occurs.
In the event of severe weather, the statewide tornado drill will be postponed until 1:30 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 14, 2016.
2015 Severe Weather Review
Last year, Michigan had an average number of tornadoes, but it was a below average year for overall severe weather, including lightning, severe thunderstorm wind, hail, and flooding. Severe weather was responsible for seven injuries in the state during 2015, all on June 22. A tornado outbreak that spawned five tornadoes hit the state during the afternoon of June 22 and continued into the overnight hours of June 23. The Portland EF1 tornado was responsible for five of the injuries while the Birch Run-Millington EF2 tornado caused the other two injuries. While tornadoes are nature’s most violent weather, all forms of severe weather can have a huge impact on the State of Michigan. Michigan citizens need to be vigilant whenever severe weather is in the forecast, not only for tornadoes, but also for wind, hail, flooding and lightning.
Flooding, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in 2015 caused over $130 million in damages. Nearly half of that total statewide damage occurred on one date, August 2, 2015. The total in damages in 2015 was down dramatically from the $2 billion in damages caused by severe weather in 2014, most notably from the August 11, 2014 Detroit floods. Last year (2015) followed a similar pattern as the past two years, with fewer days of severe weather activity but, when it hit, the severe weather was more impactful, with higher winds, larger hail and significant damage in Michigan.
Tornadoes and Severe Thunderstorms
In 2015, there were 14 tornadoes across the state, which is near the average of 15. Two days experienced most of the tornado activity: June 22-23 and November 6. The first tornado on June 22 was the Portland EF1 tornado that moved through the heart of the community during the afternoon hours affecting over 50 homes, businesses and churches. There were four additional tornadoes around the midnight hour as June 22 turned to June 23 across southeast Lower Michigan. The most significant of these was an EF2 tornado that developed near Birch Run before dissipating 10 miles later near Millington. This tornado touched down near the Pine Ridge RV Campground and severely damaged a couple houses as it moved into Tuscola County. A rare November severe line of thunderstorms developed over central Lower Michigan during the pre-dawn hours of November 6. This line would spawn three tornadoes across the Thumb region of Lower Michigan. The strongest was an EF1 just southwest of Applegate where a mobile home and several barns and outbuildings were destroyed.
Other damaging EF1 tornadoes occurred with severe thunderstorms. Those included the August 2 tornado in Owendale (Huron County), the August 8 tornado near Rose City (Ogemaw), and the December 23 tornado in Canton (Wayne). The Rose City tornado developed on September 8 and was on the ground for nearly nine miles. Most of the damage from this tornado was trees snapped or downed by the swirling winds. The Canton EF1 tornado was the first Michigan tornado in the month of December since records started in 1950! This storm proved once again that severe weather can develop during any month of the year if the atmospheric conditions are favorable.
The first severe weather event to hit the state occurred on April 9. Thunderstorms developed along a warm front across far southern Lower Michigan. These storms produced wind damage in Hillsdale, Muskegon, Kent and Montcalm counties totaling $100,000. The first Michigan tornado of 2015, a short-lived EF0, developed near the Hillsdale-Jackson County line.
A significant hail storm developed over Menominee County and then dropped two-inch diameter hail near the town of Stephenson on May 27. The hail damaged many homes, especially the roofs, for a half million dollars’ worth of damage.
Western Upper Michigan was again hit with severe storms on June 10. Thunderstorm winds up to 70 mph across Dickenson and Marquette counties downed numerous trees causing over $50,000 in damages.
During the late evening of July 13 and just past midnight on July 14, severe thunderstorms moved across west central Lower Michigan. Significant wind damage was reported across the region with many trees downed and a short-lived EF0 tornado near Alto. There was approximately $200,000 in estimated damages from the severe weather events.
By far, the most significant severe weather day for Michigan was August 2. It was the largest severe weather day in northern Michigan in more than a decade and the costliest severe weather day in the 20+ years for that region. In the day after the storm, nearly 75 percent of southern Leelanau County was without power. It took nearly a week to restore power to many of these areas. There were 100 mph winds around Sleeping Bear Dunes and Glen Arbor that caused widespread tree damage. Thousands of trees were damaged, closing roads and damaging hundreds of homes and businesses. Most of the attractions at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore were closed for nearly a week due to impassable roads and tree damage. The winds were so strong that they pushed water out of Little Glen Lake for a brief period in southern Leelanau County.
Governor Rick Snyder declared states of disaster in both Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties.
A squall line developed across eastern Wisconsin and then raced into northwest Lower Michigan during the early afternoon of August 2. This line of storms then pivoted southeast across most of the rest of Lower Michigan during the late afternoon and evening hours. Severe wind damage was recorded down to the border in Lenawee and Monroe counties. These storms also spawned an EF1 tornado in the Thumb town of Owendale. Wind damages from these storms were nearly $40 million.
The largest hailstone ever recorded in northern Michigan (since 1950), 4.25 inches, fell during the storm in West Branch. It was the 5th largest hailstone ever recorded in the state of Michigan (record is 4.50 inches). There was widespread hail damage throughout West Branch with hundreds of cars, homes and businesses damaged by the large hail. The total damage from the West Branch hail was over $30 million.
Remarkably, there was very little flooding in the state during 2015. The only flood to cause any damage was in Lenawee County on June 27 when three to five inches of rain fell across far southeast Lower Michigan on June 27 to cap one of the wettest Junes on record for that portion of the state. Many roads were closed and a few were washed out. Total damage was estimated to be around $100,000.
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.
Lightning can provide a spectacular display of light in the nighttime sky, but this awesome show of nature can also cause death and destruction. Lightning is the visible discharge of electrical energy. It is often accompanied by thunder, which is a sonic boom created by the same discharge. It is important to remember that if you hear thunder, a storm is close enough for lightning to strike you, even if the storm seems miles away and the sky is blue.
Lightning safety tips
1. Plan your evacuation and safety measures. At the first sign of lightning or thunder, activate your emergency plan. Lightning often precedes rain, so do not wait for the rain to begin before suspending activities. No place is absolutely safe from lightning; however, some places are much safer than others. The safest location during lightning activity is a large enclosed building. The second safest location is an enclosed metal topped vehicle, but NOT a convertible, bike, or other topless or soft-top vehicle.
2. If outdoors, get inside a suitable shelter IMMEDIATELY. Your only safe choice is to get to a protected building or vehicle. Avoid seeking shelter under a tree as a tree can attract lightning. In the event you are outdoors without a safe vehicle or shelter, follow outdoor safety tips at www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/outdoors.shtml Although these tips will not prevent you from being hit, they can help lessen the odds.
3. If indoors, avoid water, doors, windows, and using the telephone and headsets. Lightning could strike exterior wires, inducing shocks to inside equipment. Any item plugged into an electrical outlet may cause a hazard.
4. Do not resume activities until 30 minutes following the last observed lightning or thunder.
5. Injured persons do not carry an electrical charge and can be handled safely. If you are qualified to do so, apply first aid procedures to a lightning victim. Call 911 or send for help immediately.
For more information on how to stay safe during severe weather, download the entire severe weather packet from our website at www.cedarspringspost.com.