Governor Rick Snyder has declared April 15th through April 21st as severe weather awareness week in Michigan. Each day this week...the National Weather Service...in conjunction with the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness...will feature statements about the hazards of severe thunderstorms...tornadoes...and flooding. Below is a schedule of topics to be discussed each day. All newspapers...radio...and television stations are encouraged to pass this information along to your listeners...viewers...and readers.

Today......... Recap of 2011 and general tornado information
on Monday..... Severe weather terminology.
On Tuesday.... We will discuss the statewide test tornado
drill scheduled for Wednesday April 18th.
On Wednesday.. Tornado safety rules.
On Thursday... Flash flood/flood safety rules.
On Friday..... Thunderstorm and lightning safety rules.
On Saturday... Discussion on the hazardous weather outlook...
The short term forecast...special weather
statements...and noaa weather radio all hazards.

Each year...Michigan gets hit by an average of 16 tornadoes.  Since 1950...there has been at least one tornado in every county of the state.

According to the National Weather Service, there were four deaths and 31 injuries in Michigan from severe

weather in 2011.  All of the deaths and injuries resulted from either lightning or thunderstorm winds. Flooding, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes were responsible for about $150 million in damages in 2011, down from the $360 million in damages in 2010.


Michigan had below average severe weather activity across much of upper and northern lower Michigan last year.  However, severe weather increased in 2011 across southern lower Michigan. The character of the severe weather in southern lower Michigan was not as significant as 2010, but still took a substantial toll on the state.


Flooding in 2011 was more widespread than in the 2010. There were a total of 38 flooding and flash flooding events statewide, resulting in $10 million in damages. The most significant flood event hit Lansing and much of Ingham County on July 28.  Six to eight inches of rain fell over Ingham County in about 30 hours. This caused widespread flash flooding which closed numerous roads. Water reached as high as street side mailboxes in Lansing where boat rescues were necessary and five homes were destroyed.  Twenty additional homes suffered significant damage.  In all, the flooding around Lansing on July 28 caused about $5 million in damages.


Another significant flood event occurred in Mecosta County on April 4. A local State of Emergency was declared for the county as a result of extensive heavy rainfall and melting snow.  Numerous roads were washed out or covered with water, including M-20. Over a dozen homes were surrounded with water up to their foundations. The total damage was estimated over $1 million.


In 2011, there were 15 tornadoes across the state, which is very close to the average of 16. Fortunately, only four of the 15 tornadoes in 2011 caused significant damage, and six of the  15 tornadoes didn’t cause any damage. It could be argued that prior to the proliferation of cameras over the past couple of decades that those six non-damaging tornadoes may have never been recorded.


Severe thunderstorms occurrences were sparse across northern lower and the Upper Peninsula as many locations had their second driest summer on record.  Across southern Lower Michigan, severe weather activity was above average, but with below average number of significant events.


Despite the relatively quiet severe weather pattern across the northern portions of the state, the first severe weather event hit northwest lower Michigan. On April 10, wind gusts were measured to 79 mph at Manistee Harbor, 62 mph at Manistee Blacker Airport and 85 mph in Lake City. The most intense damage was on the north side of downtown Manistee and on the south side of Lake Missaukee. Numerous trees were blown down, resulting in roof and structural damage to many homes and businesses.


The next severe weather event occurred on April 26 across western lower Michigan from the same storm system that produced the super outbreak of tornadoes in the south. While the Michigan severe weather was not to the same degree as the severe weather in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia, it did have an impact on the state. There were numerous reports of wind damage and hail up to the size of golf balls. The hail across the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo areas caused over $20 million in damages. The first Michigan tornado hit a turkey farm in Allegan County and produced EF-0 damage over its three-mile track. Nine people were injured when lightning struck a soccer field in Portage at Westfield Park. The injured were a mix of adults and students.


May started quietly with no significant severe weather until the end of the month.  Severe weather with some large hail and minor thunderstorm wind damage hit western lower Michigan on May 22 and then moved into the southeast lower part of the state on May 23


The storms traveled from northern Illinois across southern lower Michigan between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The storms strengthened as they reached far southern lower Michigan and produced widespread winds estimated to 100 mph.  Battle Creek and St. Joseph County were the hardest hit with over $25 million in damages. In Battle Creek, approximately 600 homes and 21 businesses were damaged. The May 29 squall line also produced three EF-1 tornadoes in St. Joseph, Branch and Ingham/Shiawassee Counties.


May ended with another severe weather event across northern and central lower Michigan.  One tornado was recorded in Bay County on May 31.  The tornado was on the ground for over eight miles damaging homes, garages and barns.


June brought a return of periodic severe weather episodes.  Severe weather was reported from Central Upper Michigan and from all corners of Lower Michigan during June 8 and into the early morning hours of June 9. Another severe weather event hit southern lower Michigan on June 21, including a thunderstorm wind gust that damaged two hangers at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Unfortunately, the wind gust and subsequent hanger damage resulted in four injuries.


By early July, hot and humid air had invaded all of Michigan.  But then a cold front moved across upper Michigan on July 1 and then across lower Michigan on July 2. The combination of the cold front and the hot and humid air mass triggered severe weather events in upper Michigan and southeast lower Michigan. July took a deadly turn for Michigan when next severe thunderstorms moved across southern lower Michigan on July 11.  Unfortunately, a man was killed inside his garage when a large tree fell over in the wind and on top of the garage.  One week later, severe thunderstorms affected southeast Michigan on July 18. The severe thunderstorm winds cause sporadic wind damage and some downed power lines.  A man in Detroit was killed when a power line fell due to the thunderstorm winds.    A family was on a tubing outing on the Au Sable River on July 23 when a thunderstorm rapidly developed, and they attempted to exit the river and find shelter. They had just exited the river when three of the individuals were struck by lightning. Two women were pronounced dead at the scene. A man was transported to a hospital in Saginaw in critical condition. He would survive, but require a 10-day hospital stay and considerable physical therapy. The survivor had no recollection of the incident.


August brought a return of less violent severe weather.  Severe thunderstorms moved through southern lower Michigan on August 13, 20, and 24. The last severe weather event of 2011 affected southern lower Michigan on September 3. These severe thunderstorms forced the University of Michigan to end their opening football game early.  The storms also hit River Rouge where they were holding a festival.  A tent collapsed under the force of the strong winds and 10 people were injured.

Regarding tornadoes...the peak season in Michigan is from April through August. Most tornadoes occur between the hours of 3 pm and 9 pm...although they can occur at any time of the day or night and almost any month of the year.

Those most at risk during tornadoes are persons in mobile homes  and automobiles...which can be easily destroyed or damaged even by weak tornadoes.

Of course...tornadoes are not the only weather threat in Michigan.  Severe thunderstorms...lightning... and flooding occur each year across the state. Knowing what to do when a warning is issued for
your area is vital. It may save your life and the lives of your family members.

For more information...contact the nearest National Weather Service office...or your local emergency management agency.

On Monday...we will look at severe weather terminology.

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