Dr. Fujita came to Kalamazoo to do a post tornado damage survey. Dr. Fujita remarked that this type of tornado is “extremely rare”, indicating that only once in every 50 to 100 years does a tornado actually strike a downtown area of a city. His survey showed that the twister came through that Mountain Home Cemetery in Kalamazoo as an F2, strengthened and struck the St. Augustine Elementary School as an F3 before quickly weakening. “It would have remained an F3 storm were it not for the city,” said Fujita, “The Bank, the Hilton and Gilmore’s were damaged but weakened the tornado. The tornado worked very hard for survival, but the tall buildings acted as a fence to the tornado flow.” Fujita also found a rare sign… a “beautiful” swirl mark in the dirt on a farm. The 150 to 200 foot diameter of the swirl showed precisely the size of the tornado’s calm center.
Dr. Fujita also hypothesized that “if the same tornado had been in an open field, I think the winds would have exceeded 200 m.p.h. But the buildings reduced the winds to 120 to 150 m.p.h. The highest winds were at the building top, at the fifth and sixth floors.”