XIV. Bronson Park Devastated

A lifelong Kalamazoo landmark, Bronson Park, site of a public speech given in Michigan by Abraham Lincoln in 1856, was left devastated. All of the park’s trees suffered serious damage and many were completely uprooted. Many of the trees were well over 100 years old and some dated back to 1829, when Kalamazoo was founded. William VerMeulen, Kalamazoo city parks superintendent at the time said, “There was irreplaceable damage. It just makes you sick.”

Tornado training is critical and can save lives. All 30 Kalamazoo city buses were in service when the tornado struck. Five of them sustained extensive structural damage, with damage estimates on all five in excess of $50,000. All bus drivers were alerted to follow emergency procedures to safely evacuate or shelter their passengers. Bus operator Tony Garcia recalled, “I directed everyone to hit the floor. I had about 15 to 20 passengers and they all hit the floor in the aisles and in between the seats. My passengers listened very well and no one panicked.” There were no reports of serious passenger injuries. Metro Transit training and safety supervisor Michael Seymour commented, “The drivers acted on impulse. They got tornado training two years ago and it paid off well.”

Debris from downtown Kalamazoo landed in Comstock. One woman said she found a checking account statement, financial statements and a letter from a law firm in her yard. Her neighbor found a bathrobe with $38 price tag still intact. Another area resident said, “We’ve got all sorts of records and statements from ISB.”

  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

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