XII. Dr. T. Theodore Fujita’s Kalamazoo Tornado Findings

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.”

  1. Introduction
  2. Methodology
  3. Large Scale Synoptic Pattern over the United States on May 13, 1980
  4. Hourly Surface Weather Maps Focused on Great Lakes Region from 12 UTC May 13 to 00 UTC May 14
  5. Observed 12 UTC Soundings for Flint, MI and Peoria, IL and Data Derived from them
  6. Modified Flint Sounding
  7. Flint and Peoria hodographs from 12Z observed soundings
  8. Modified Peoria Hodograph (using 18 UTC surface winds in AZO)
  9. What are our most important significant research findings? What do we believe caused the Kalamazoo tornado? What can we learn from this? How can we use this information to aid in anticipating tornadogenesis in the Grand Rapids CWA?
  10. So what exactly happened? Chronology of events occurring between 3:30 and 4:25 p.m. EDT across Van Buren and Kalamazoo Counties.
  11. Tornado Victims
  12. Dr. T. Theodore Fujita’s Kalamazoo Tornado Findings
  13. A Personal Account of the Kalamazoo Tragedy
  14. Bronson Park Devastated
  15. Acknowledgments
Return to The May 13, 1980 Kalamazoo Tornado Case Study Main Page

USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.