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Great Lakes Tornado Outbreak June 8, 1953

 

On June 8, 1953, much of the Great Lakes region was bombarded by an outbreak of severe weather. The featured image is the F4 that hit Erie, Michigan. It was one of many multiple large, violent tornadoes to affect the area. The Flint, Michigan Tornado, which was rated F5, was one of the most infamous storms produced by a larger outbreak of severe weather that began in Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin, before moving across the Great Lakes states, and then into New York and New England. Other F3 and F4 tornadoes struck other locations in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire and Ohio.

The tornadoes of 1953 proved to be some of the most destructive and deadliest in United States History. The first major tornado of that year was an F4 in April that tore through Warner Robbins, Georgia, killing 18. The next outbreak happened in May in Texas where San Angelo and Waco were devastated and that outbreak caused a 144 deaths, 114 in Waco alone. People across the country were had a heightened sense of alert after reading these stories in newspapers.

The next storm system had many people concerned, because of the events that had occurred earlier in the year. As the event began to unfold it looked as though it was going to be very similar to the previous events.

The Flint and Beecher communities of Michigan were struck by the tornado around 8:30 p.m. The tornado moved east-northeast 2 miles north of Flushing and devastated the north side of Flint and Beecher.

The tornado descended on that humid evening near a drive-in movie theater that was flickering to life at twilight time. Motorists in the drive-in began to flee in panic, creating many auto accidents on nearby roads. When MyWARN alerts you, it will give you lifesaving actions to take, even if you are in a car. Tornadoes that strike at night are often more devastating because it becomes difficult to see what is taking place and this prevents people from getting out of the tornado’s path as much as possible or moving to a cellar or bunker that would give them a higher chance of survival. Do not wait or rely on your eyes, rely on MyWARN. It will alert you no matter what time it is, make sure that if you are in severe weather danger, you have MyWARN to notify you.

The tornado dissipated near Lapeer, Michigan. Nearly every home was destroyed on both sides of Coldwater Road. Multiple deaths were reported in 20 families, and it was reported that papers from Flint were deposited in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, some sixty miles east of Flint. Large sections of neighborhoods were completely swept away, with only foundations left. Trees were debarked and vehicles were thrown and mangled.

The tornado damaged hundreds of homes, with the largest amount of them sustaining major damage and having to be torn down. Sixty-six farms and businesses are also damaged or destroyed. The total cost of the Flint-Beecher tornado was $19 million in 1953, which would equal over $150 million today.

People that were in those communities and survived the tornado, as well as those individuals that came from nearby communities in order to help with the cleanup efforts talked of the devastation that they saw, and many survivor stories are available. The width of the tornado’s path was 833 yards, and the length of its path was 27 miles. A child of 5 months was the youngest person killed in the Flint-Beecher tornado, and a person of 80 was the oldest. Overall, the tornado took 116 lives making it the tenth deadliest tornado and injured almost 850 more people. It is also one of only three F5 tornadoes ever to hit in Michigan. Another F5 would hit in Hudsonville on April 3, 1956. For decades it remained the last 100+ fatality single tornado, until Joplin, Missouri in 2011, when 161 people lost their lives.

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