February tornadoes in Michigan very rare

Three tornadoes that touched down in Southwest Michigan Tuesday were ranked EF-1

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Crews work to clean up damage in Niles after a Feb. 28, 2017 tornado.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A line of intense storms fired along the Indiana/Michigan state line Tuesday night, producing three very rare February tornadoes in Michigan.

Each tornado was ranked an EF-1 for winds just above 100 mph. This is only the second time since records began in 1950 the atmosphere was volatile enough to produce a tornado in February in our state. The last time it happened was near Detroit in 1974. That tornado was ranked an EF-2 for winds between 113 to 157 mph and was only on the ground for a tenth of a mile.

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Only one tornado has been recorded in Michigan in February prior to Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017.

The tornadoes in southern West Michigan Tuesday caused damage in Niles, Dowagiac and Vandalia. Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio usually stay twister-free through February. Here’s how many tornadoes each state averages for February:

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Number of tornadoes on average by state for the month of February. (Courtesy: Storm Prediction Center)

The line of severe storms that spawned on Tuesday was much farther north than usual for this time of year.

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Lightning tracks via @WxSteveBowen on Twitter

Severe storms in March do usually travel into our state.

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Number of tornadoes on average by state for the month of March. (Courtesy: Storm Prediction Center)

The recent rash of severe weather which spanned Feb. 28 and March 1 was the most active since July of 2015 with more than 1,000 severe weather reports.

Several of the tornadoes that touched down were ranked EF-3 in intensity including ones in Poseyville, Indiana; Perryville, Missouri; Crossvile, Illinois; and Naplate, Illinois. The video below of a violent tornado was taken by Valparaiso University Meteorology students as part of their Storm Intercept Team.

2017 is now off to an above average national tornado count, although still lagging behind 2008 which started off even stronger. This is coming off of two years of below average tornado counts. Both 2015 and 2016 had less tornadoes than usual across the country.