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Tag Archive | "tornado"

Are you prepared for severe weather?

The Swan Inn was demolished in the April 11, 1965 Palm Sunday tornado. The building was at the intersection of Alpine Avenue and 6 Mile Road. One of the guests was fatally injured. Photo credit: Walter L. Nelson, via The National Weather Service.

The Swan Inn was demolished in the April 11, 1965 Palm Sunday tornado. The building was at the intersection of Alpine Avenue and 6 Mile Road. One of the guests was fatally injured. Photo credit: Walter L. Nelson, via The National Weather Service.

We don’t see a lot of tornadoes in our area, but they do happen in Michigan. It was on Palm Sunday, 50 years ago this Saturday, 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. And it didn’t stop in Comstock Park—the storm tracked west of Rockford and up to the Cedar Springs area.

This photo shows the path of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado, from Allendale to Cedar Springs. Photo from the National Weather Service.

This photo shows the path of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado, from Allendale to Cedar Springs. Photo from the National Weather Service.

Many areas where the Palm Sunday storm tracked were fields and farmland, but now are more densely populated. If we had a storm of that magnitude again, would you be ready?

April 12-18 is Michigan Severe Weather Awareness Week. Last year, there were 13 tornadoes across the state of Michigan. The most damaging was an EF1 tornado in Kent County in July. The tornado started near 60th and Clyde Park SW, moving northeast through Kentwood, and ending near 44th and Kalamazoo SE. The twister traveled 6 miles, damaging homes and causing six injuries in its path. Michigan had 13 tornadoes (just short of the annual average of 15) and fortunately, no one was killed in these storms. Other severe weather incidents in the state caused one death, 13 injuries, and the most damaging severe weather season in Michigan’s history, due to flooding in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. Be vigilant whenever severe weather is in the forecast.

This year, as we enter Michigan Severe Weather Awareness Week, it’s a great time to refresh your supplies and make sure you are prepared. Make sure you have a flashlight, fresh batteries, enough water for three days, canned food items and a can opener, an all-weather radio, and a first aid kit. You should also remember the difference between a watch and a warning:

WATCH: The potential exists for the development of storms/tornados. You can continue your normal activities, but be mindful of changing conditions.

WARNING: Severe storms are imminent or occurring. Move indoors to a place of safety. If it is a Tornado Warning, take shelter in a basement or the inner-most closet of your home.

“While no location is completely safe from a tornado or severe thunderstorm, it is important to seek all possible protection,” said Jack Stewart, Kent County Emergency Management Coordinator. “Make sure you and your family take cover in a location on the lowest level of the building, like the basement, or in a small, windowless room at the innermost part of the building. Protect yourself by covering your body with items such as a coat or blanket.”  In the event of a tornado, kneel down and bend into a ball-like position, using your arms to cover your head and neck. If flooding occurs, move to higher grounds and evacuate quickly if told to do so.

Plan in advance for disasters to know how you and your family will get to a safe place, how to contact each other and what to do in different situations. Determine a location where you would meet in an emergency, both near your house and further away, in case your neighborhood streets are closed. If a disaster occurs, it may be easier to make a long-distance phone call to a designated out-of-town contact, as phone lines may be overwhelmed. Make sure that person is aware that he or she is the designated contact. You should also have a disaster plan for your pets as well.

Check out our Severe Weather Awareness packet here – Severe Weather awareness week.pdf 

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Do you remember the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado? 


The National Weather office in Grand Rapids needs your help. April 11, 2015 will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak and they  are looking for photos, home movies and eyewitness accounts of the tornadoes to be documented as part of their commemoration event. They are especially interested in details on the tornado that struck from near Marne to Comstock Park on that day. If you have firsthand accounts of the tornadoes or film of the event, please contact them at w-grr.webmaster@noaa.gov. You can also leave a phone message with your contact info at 616-949-0643 extension 356.


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Tornado hits south of Grand Rapids

Photo from WOODTV.com

Photo from WOODTV.com

By Judy Reed


Photo from WOODTV.com

Photo from WOODTV.com

The National Weather Service confirmed Monday that the damage done just south of Grand Rapids during thunderstorms on Sunday evening, July 6, was due to a tornado.

Calls began pouring into Kent County’s 911 dispatch about 10:30 p.m. reporting roofs caved in, power lines and trees down, and people trapped in homes and vehicles.

The tornado reportedly developed near 64th Street and Burlingame in Byron Center about 10:20 p.m, and traveled 6.25 miles, through Wyoming and Kentwood, ending at 28th Street and Breton. It was on the ground for about 10 minutes and produced significant damage. The NWS rated the tornado an EF-1, with maximum wind speeds from 100-110 mph. Its width was 300 to 400 yards wide. There were six injuries, and no fatalities. It was the first EF-1 in Kent County since 2001, and the first tornado since 2006, when an EF-0 hit Caledonia.

Daniel Cobb, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said it was definitely a tornado, and not straight-line winds, explaining during a news conference that the debris they surveyed had the classic signature of a tornado.

People have questioned why there was no warning with the tornado. Cobb explained that the tornado developed near the ground and grew upward. And, because of the time delay between radar scans, they didn’t realize it was there until they picked up the debris on radar that lifted in Kentwood. It was already lifting back up moments later, too late for a warning.

“They always want to get it right, and it kills them if it doesn’t play out right,” he explained. “If they warned on every scan that looked like a possible tornado, they would be warning all the time. We prefer to wait for two scans. We are trying to say with severe thunderstorms that a tornado is possible, and warn on the big tornadoes.”

“We are very successful at detecting big tornadoes that blow your house down,” he noted.

He also noted that these smaller tornadoes are not rare, but not frequent either. Here it just happened in a populated area. “You have to respect Mother Nature. Always be inside during a storm,” he urged.

On Wednesday, July 9, the NWS also confirmed another tornado that spawned from the storms that moved through Sunday evening and Monday morning, July 6-7. This one was an EF-0 in Ionia County, and developed about 12:16 a.m., July 7, just a couple of hours after the one near Grand Rapids. It started just east of Sunfield Highway, and south of Reeder Road. It went about one mile, ending just west of South Keefer highway, north of Reeder Road. It lasted about 4 minutes. One home lost roofing material and five farm buildings were damaged along Reeder Road. Tree and crop damage also occurred along the path of the tornado.


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Severe weather knocks out power, spawns tornado

Mary Lou Fuller, of Solon Township, sent us photos of a double rainbow that appeared after Sunday’s storm behind Cedar Springs Middle School.

Mary Lou Fuller, of Solon Township, sent us photos of a double rainbow that appeared after Sunday’s storm behind Cedar Springs Middle School.


N-storm-Rainbow1-nov-2013-011The Michigan State Police are reminding people to use caution as clean-up efforts are underway following the fast-moving storm that traveled through the region Sunday leaving power outages, fallen trees and wind damage.

Damage was lighter in our area than in the southern part of the state, although many homes here suffered power outages.

Damage assessments are still being completed, but two fatalities and one serious injury have been confirmed in the state. Of those incidents, a 21-year-old Jackson County man was killed when a tree fell on his car; a 59-year-old Shiawassee County man was killed when he was electrocuted; and a 14-year-old Wayne County boy is in critical condition after being electrocuted.

The National Weather Service has confirmed EF-0 tornadoes in Cass, Otsego and Ingham counties, as well as one that touched down in several locations from Muskegon to Newaygo counties. EF-0 tornadoes are capable of producing winds from 65 to 85 mph.

As of 1:30 p.m. yesterday, more than 235,000 homes were still without power statewide. Personnel from the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) continue to monitor weather conditions and remain in contact with local emergency management personnel to provide assistance as needed.

Clare Armstrong, of Sand Lake, sent us this photo of a swingset blown across her yard.

Clare Armstrong, of Sand Lake, sent us this photo of a swingset blown across her yard.

“During Sunday’s storm, many communities across the state experienced some degree of property damage, downed trees and power outages,” said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “The protection of public health and safety is our primary concern.”

As cleanup continues, it is important for citizens to be aware of the dangers they may face in the aftermath of the storm.  Below are some general safety precautions:

·         Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.

• Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.

• Avoid actions that can result in dangerous levels of carbon monoxide:

Do not use a grill indoors.

Do not use an unvented gas or kerosene heater.

Do not use a generator in the house or garage.

Do not use an oven or stove to heat your home.

• Use extreme caution when driving. If traffic signals are out, treat each signal as a stop sign. Come to a complete stop at every intersection and look before you proceed.

• Avoid standing water, flooded roadways and flooded riverbanks. Remember: “Turn around, don’t drown.”

• Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.

• Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris. Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.

Anyone needing assistance should contact their local emergency management agency or call 2-1-1.

Personnel with the MSP/EMHSD will continue to monitor the situation and take prudent action should conditions warrant.

“Michigan’s No. 1 threat is severe weather and these storms serve as a reminder of the importance of being prepared, especially as winter approaches,” Kelenske said. “A prepared Michigan is a resilient Michigan, which includes having an emergency plan and basic supply kit in every household.”

For more preparedness tips about what to do before, during and after a storm or power outage, visit www.michigan.gov/beprepared or www.twitter.com/MichEMHS.


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Through the Storm

Pastor Jim Howard

First Baptist Church




46 years ago, a tornado passed through our family farm.  I remember details that seem so vivid in my memory.  At the time I was only 8 and for me, this storm wasn’t something that I feared, but rather something that was very exciting.  Lots of rain, hail and wind.  I recall being hustled down into the basement and my grandmother opening a lot of windows in the house.  The thinking back then was that you opened the windows to relieve the pressure & lessen the potential damage.

The actual storm passed quite quickly and I remember the sun coming out almost immediately afterward.  We all went upstairs and outside.  The damage was relatively light with trees uprooted and farm equipment overturned.  The buildings were relatively unscathed.  The tornado only grazed us!

The events of late in Oklahoma remind us of how dangerous tornadoes can be!  Our hearts go out to those victimized by the storm and those who are dealing with the loss of loved ones.  Horatio Spafford penned the words to the song “It Is Well with My Soul” which expressed his heart and hope after the loss of his children in a shipwreck at sea. “When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’”  I’ve often wondered how he could express such a perspective in the midst of extreme grief.

When faith in Christ is a way of life, we find that the peace of God is most certainly unexplainable (Philippians 4:7),  This does not mean that we do not hurt or grieve or feel a sense of profound loss.  It does mean that through the midst of the traumas and tribulations, that we have an incredible sense that we are not alone (Heb. 13:5), and that God will take care of our needs (Philippians 4:19).  Life will be full of storms that at times threaten to swamp our boat and overwhelm us.  As we go through those storms, remember that God has promised to see us through them.  If the storm results in our death, we have the confidence of knowing that our next breath will be heavenly! (2 Corinthians 5:8)

I remember that after the tornado had passed through our farm, we went outside into warm sunshine and clearing skies.  The air was incredibly fresh and calm.  It would take us many weeks to clean up after that storm.  The appearance of the farm changed, just as life changed, but life moved on.  When the storms of life prevail, they will pass!  We will endure and persevere!

How could Spafford express such words in his song?  Because of an eternal hope!  “And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll, The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, ‘Even so’ – it is well with my soul.”

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Why? Or why not?

Pastor Dick Nichols

Cedar Creek Community Church

2969 14 Mile Road, Sparta


You can be sure that at least once in everyone’s life, something so difficult and painful will happen that we will ask “God … why?” So many things in life seem unexplainable; why does a tornado destroy one house and leave another untouched? Why does one brother prosper while another struggles all of his life? Why did the tumor come back when the doctor said he thought he got it all? We all have these types of questions in this life; the list is endless.

Sometimes we encounter circumstances, events and situations that make it seem like the entire world is collapsing around us. Things make no sense at all. And, if there is a purpose behind it, we can’t see it. So, we will turn to the Bible for comfort and read scripture like “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, New International Version).

Before my wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, there were some painful and difficult events in our family, and we heard this verse quoted to us more than once from well-meaning friends, and we didn’t find any consolation in it. Now that Jesus is our Lord, we have an understanding that we couldn’t have before.

Do all things work together for good? My answer to this question is now an emphatic YES! But there still remains the inevitable question “are all things good?” that can only be answered emphatically NO! The difference is that we know now that the Lord can turn harrowing circumstances around and literally cause everything to work together for good. It’s tough for many of us to grab hold of the idea that God doesn’t let anything go to waste in our lives. He has a purpose and a reason for everything that happens in the lives of his followers and will even use the bad and difficult things to produce good on our behalf.

I do not have to tell you that Romans 8:28 is one of the most beloved verses in the Bible. But there are times when this verse is misused and is thrown at those suffering, as if it could answer every question in life. That is the opposite of what Paul the apostle intended. Some people think that after a tragedy, God will show up and make everything come out o.k. Then, when life’s wrinkles don’t get ironed out, they wonder “where was God when…?”

That is not the biblical view at all. In reality we know now that God is there at the beginning, and God is there at the end, and he is there at every point in between. Simply put, this scripture lets Christians know that God was there before it all happened and he is still there when it is over, and that his plan is to serve a higher purpose and bring about good results.

The Bible never asks us to pretend that tragedy isn’t tragedy, or to pretend that our pain isn’t real. The point is, we must see the active involvement of God in our circumstances. Paul taught, in Romans 5:3-4, that a believer’s faith and character must be refined, purified and tempered in order to grow and reach greater levels of maturity for God so he can make us into what he wants us to be, to do what he has called us to do.

The Lord allows assorted troubles, trials, and temptations to test our faith and spiritual character so that we can grow closer to our Lord. You will never face any trial that you and Jesus cannot overcome. This does not mean that we will evade such trouble; it means that with him, we will be able to bear them.

Scripture does not say that whatever happens is good, or that suffering and evil and tragedy are good, or that we will be able to understand why God allows what he allows in our lives. Instead, God puts a sign over us that reads: “Patience, God is at work.” As in any construction project, don’t judge the end by the beginning.













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Over the rainbow

Last week the Post ran a photo of the rainbow that splashed across the sky while we were under a tornado warning April 26. But the photo that D.M. White brought in this week shows the rainbow in much more vivid color. The photo was taken on Pine Lake Road, in Courtland Township, by D.M.’s neighbor, Rich Ruugi. Thanks, D.M. and Rich!

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Rainbow in the midst of the storm

Post photo by J. Reed

Severe storms with heavy rain, wind, lightning, hail and funnel clouds raced across West Michigan Tuesday, leaving some damage and rising water in its wake.
Tornado sirens went off here in Cedar Springs and all across Kent County, when clouds with rotation were spotted southeast of here, heading in a line from Grattan to Greenville. Pea and marble-sized hail was seen in isolated spots across our area, and even bigger south of Grand Rapids.
In the midst of the storm, a rainbow appeared to the east of Cedar Springs, which we managed to capture on camera, despite the rain.

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Keep an eye to the sky

This is a photo of the Willow, Michigan tornado near Detroit in June, 2010.

April showers might bring May flowers, but they are also a sign that another severe weather season is here. Residents should remember to keep an eye to the sky when attending outdoor events.

“With hundreds of fun outdoor activities each year throughout Michigan, it is important to know what do if you are outside and severe weather strikes,” said Rich Pollman, Chair of the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Committee.

* Remember the following when you are attending outside events:

* Check the weather forecast before leaving your house.

* When you arrive check around for the nearest shelter.

* Seek shelter when you first hear thunder, see dark threatening clouds developing overhead or lightning.  Count the seconds between the time you see lightning and hear the thunder.  You should already be in a safe location if that time is less than 30 seconds.

* If you can’t find a shelter, get into a fully enclosed vehicle. Put your head down below the windows, covering it with your hands or blanket.

* Stay inside until 30 minutes after you last hear thunder. Lightning can strike more than 10 miles away from any rainfall.

To assist those planning outdoor events, the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness has developed a brochure to help develop an emergency plan those organizing farmers’ markets, fairs and concerts. It is available on the website, www.mcswa.com.

In 2010, tornadoes and thunderstorms resulted in one death, 22 injuries and $360 million in damages in Michigan.  Flooding caused another $7 in damages.

It is important for Michiganians to be familiar with severe weather alerts.  A tornado watch or severe thunderstorm watch simply means that severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are possible.  Residents should gather a first aid kit, flashlight and portable radio or their emergency supply kit.  They should monitor the weather through local television, radio or NOAA weather radio.

A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or is indicated on Doppler Radar.  Go immediately to the basement or a small interior room on the lowest level.  Keep away from chimneys and windows.  Leave mobile homes and find shelter in a sturdy building.

When a thunderstorm warning is issued for your area, get indoors immediately and do not use the telephone or electrical appliances. Keep away from windows.  Do not take shelter in sheds or under isolated trees. If you are out boating and swimming, get to land and find a sturdy shelter immediately.

To prepare for severe weather, the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness suggests that you:

* Plan ahead. Be sure everyone in your household knows where to go and what to do in case of severe weather.  Make plans for those who may have trouble getting to shelter.

* Have emergency supplies on hand, including a battery-operated radio, a flashlight and a fresh supply of batteries.

* Know the shelter locations in public buildings, such as work, schools and shopping centers.

* Make a list of household furnishings and other items.  Take photographs of each room.  Store the list and photos in safe place.

* Have an emergency communication plan.  Know how to reach family and friends if you are unable to meet at home.

* Create an emergency plan for your pets.

See below for more safety tips, or visit the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness website at www.mcswa.com. The Committee is also on Facebook.


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Dealing with a tornado or thunderstorm

Plan ahead.  Be sure everyone in your household knows where to go and what to do in case of a tornado warning.

Know the safest location for shelter in your home, workplace and school.  Load bearing walls near the center of the basement or lowest level generally provide the greatest protection.

Know the location of designated shelter areas in local public facilities, such as schools, shopping centers and other public buildings.

Have emergency supplies on hand, including a battery-operated radio, flashlight and a supply of fresh batteries, first-aid kit, water and cell phone.

Make an inventory of household furnishings and other possessions.  Supplement it with photographs of each room.  Keep in a safe place.

What to do when a thunderstorm approaches your area:

Seek safe shelter when you first hear thunder, see dark threatening clouds developing overhead or lightning.  Count the seconds between the time you see lightning and hear the thunder.  You should already be in a safe location if that time is less than 30 seconds.  Stay inside until 30 minutes after you last hear thunder.  Lightning can strike more than 10 miles away from any rainfall!

When you hear thunder, run to the nearest large building or a fully enclosed vehicle (soft-topped convertibles are not safe).  You are not safe anywhere outside.

If you are boating or swimming, get to land and shelter immediately.

Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity.  Unplug appliances not necessary for receiving weather information.  Use plug-in telephones only in an emergency.

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 no basement is 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 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, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building.  If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter you should immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.

If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.

As a last resort, stay in the car with the seat belt on.  Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.

If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

If you are boating or swimming, get to land and shelter immediately.

After a tornado/thunderstorm:

Inspect your property and motor vehicles for damage.  Write down the date and list damages for insurance purposes.  Check for electrical problems and gas leaks and report them to the utility company at once.

Watch out for fallen power lines.  Stay out of damaged buildings until you are sure they are safe and will not collapse.  Secure your property from further damage or theft.

Use only approved or chlorinated supplies of drinking water.  Check food supplies.

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