50th Anniversary of Famous Grand Rapids Tornado

Today is the 50th Anniversary of a famous tornado outbreak, which included an F3 tornado that started in Grandville, moved through the south side of Grand Rapids, through East Grand Rapids and all the way to Ada.  That twister injured 32 people on that Friday afternoon.  At least 10 tornadoes touched down in Michigan, half of them causing injuries.  Tornadoes touched down in Kent, Allegan, Barry, Muskegon, Ionia, Ingham, Cass, Clinton and Eaton Counties.  We had one F4, one F3, six F2, one F1 and one F0.

  Pic. of damage in Oak Lawn IL – southwest of Chicago.  The tornadoes in Michigan were overshadowed by the devastation in Illinois, where F4 tornadoes caused millions in damage in Belvidere (25 fatalities, 450 injured), Oak Lawn (32 fatalities, 500 injured – 15 mi. path) and Lake Zurich.  A total of 58 fatalities were reported that day, with 1,118 injured.  Here’s an interactive map where you can view the tornado paths that afternoon.

  The G. R. tornado started in Grandville at the end of Choctaw Dr.  The twister moved ENE, crossing U.S. 131 into East Grand Rapids and nearly to downtown Ada before dissipating.  There are several pics. of the damage here.  An analysis by the National Weather Service at the time noted 65 structures totally destroyed, 60 suffered major damage, 375 with minor to moderate damage.  The width of the tornado varied from 300 to 600 yards.  Hundreds of trees were uprooted and snapped off.

  This is damage in Oak Lawn IL.

  The Belvidere tornado destroyed over 400 cars at the Chrysler Plant, then hit the high school just as school was getting out.  12 buses were rolled and many children already on buses were thrown out as the buses tumbled.  Thirteen fatalities and 300 injuries occurred at that school.  Here’s a write-up on the Illinois twisters from the Chicago NWS.

Here’s a weather map from that day.  This was the same year as a big blizzard that hit on 1/26/67, leaving 29″ of snow in Wilmette, just north of Chicago (measured be ME!).

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