Friday, January 6, 2017

Allen Park, Michigan, F4 Tornado--May 12th 1956

Michigan tornadoes since 1950 when records began being kept.

A tornado is a violent rotating column of air descending from a thunderstorm and touching down on the ground, usually spinning counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. There is no shortage of tornadoes in the deadly swatch of America called "tornado alley"--a nickname given to a large area beginning in Texas and running through the Great Plains states northeast through the Midwest and the Great Lakes, stretching into Canada. The official boundaries are not clearly defined. 

The term was first used in 1952 as the title of a research project by U.S. Air Force meteorologists Major Ernest J. Fawbush and Captain Robert C. Miller. Tornado season runs from mid-March into September--the worst month being June.

Allen Park, Michigan, is located south of Detroit in an area known as Downriver--statistically a low risk area for tornadoes. But on May 12th, 1956, the day before Mothers' Day, an F4 tornado ripped through town and injured twenty-two people, damaging property in its wake.

An F4 rating is listed as "devastating" [207 mph to 260 mph] by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA]. Tornado ranking was developed by T. Theodore Fujita and first used in 1973 and enhanced in 2007 [see link for more detailed information].

--from Images of America [series] Allen Park by Sharon Broglin

Allen Park residents remember the 1956 tornado as one of the worst weather events in their history, the twister touching down on Ecorse Road and cutting across town. Eyewitnesses remember that it traveled down the railroad tracks near homes close to Jaycee Park. There was damage to the Westwood Dairy Bar at Allen Road and Roosevelt Street. Also on Allen Road, Gee's Drive-in hamburger joint had the roof torn off which landed in a yard several blocks away. Across Allen Road, the tornado took out all the front windows of North Junior High School, and close by, all the trees in Thomas Park were leveled.

This was a lucky day for Allen Parkers, only twenty-two people were injured with no fatalities. Flint, Michigan, had a tornado the same day with three fatalities and one-hundred, sixteen injuries. Only three years before, the Flint area had an F5 tornado, the most devastating tornado in Michigan state history--with one-hundred, sixteen deaths and eight-hundred, forty-four injuries.

NOAA Severe Weather 101--Tornado Basics:

More information on the Fujita tornado rating scale: