Ceremony Events

The Science Behind the Flint-Beecher Tornado

Introduction  |  Background  |  Map Features  |  Similarity with July 2, 1997 Outbreak  |  Modern Retrospective of June 8, 1953


Photograph of the F4 tornado near Erie, Michigan. June 8th, 1953.
Besides the Flint-Beecher tornado, several other tornadoes occurred in Michigan and Ohio late on the afternoon of June 8th (Figure 1). An F4 intensity tornado touched down near Temperance, moved east through Erie, and then traveled 44 minutes as a waterspout over Lake Erie, one of the longest waterspout tracks on record. Another tornado touched down in southwestern Washtenaw County and tracked several miles before dissipating just south of the Ann Arbor- Ypsilanti area. Yet another tornado touched down just northeast of Brighton in Livingston County and moved northeast across GM Proving Grounds into the Milford area. In all, 8 tornadoes were reported in Michigan that day resulting in 125 deaths and 925 injuries.

Map showing the paths of the multiple tornadoes which occured on June 8th, 1953.
The system that spawned these tornadoes was a classic severe weather producer in terms of its meteorological characteristics - and was very recognizable by forecasters of the day. Even in that early age of weather forecasting, when forecast accuracy was as much "miss" as "hit", the weather forecasts were astounding in their accuracy.

The forecast on the front page of the afternoon edition of the Flint Journal trumpeted "strong thunderstorms with hail and gusty winds over 50 mph" for the coming evening. Figure 2 shows the Weather Bureau Severe Storms Unit (precursor of today's NWS Storm Prediction Center) Severe Weather Bulletin #27 issued at approximately 730 pm the evening of June 8th - an hour prior to the Flint-Beecher tornado. The blue scalloped area denotes the expected severe thunderstorm threat, and the solid red area denotes the expected tornado threat. Even though it was not a perfect forecast, it was certainly a remarkable forecast given the total lack of today's satellite data, radar data, and computer processing.

Track of the tornado across Genesee and Lapeer Counties. Image courtesy of the Flint Journal.


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