GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With severe weather season upon us, especially for areas well south/west of Michigan, it’s interesting to note that this season is off to a very slow start for tornadoes. Recall that some of the most violent tornadoes in Michigan occurred in early Spring. Case in point was the Hudsonville/Standale tornado, part of a larger outbreak April 2 and 3, 1956. It was an F5 that tore through and devastated both cities! Don’t forget the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak that slammed West Michigan and was also part of a larger outbreak on April 11 and 12, 1965. That was an F4 tornado. In fact, the National Weather Service is holding an open house and presentation at Kenowa Hills High School to commemorate the Palm Sunday event April 11 for those that may have photos, videos, or can give an eyewitness account of the tornadoes here in West Michigan. Specifically, they are reconstructing the Comstock Park, Alpine Township tornado. The 50th anniversary is THIS year! The Alpine Township Historical Society will also be on hand.
March 24, 2015 marked the issuance of the very first Severe Thunderstorm Watch in the United States this season. It actually was for the southern Plains and there ended up being 68 reports of large hail one inch or larger in size.
On average by this time in the year, we see nationally about 130 tornadoes. Only 27 have been reported, down almost 80 percent. The average number of tornadoes in March through the 25th is between 55 and 60. This is now the longest stretch ever in March with no tornadoes reported (nationally). The previous record was March 1969 when the first tornado didn’t occur until March 23. The fewest tornadoes ever recorded in the month of March was in 1951 when only six occurred.
While there is a moderate risk from the Storm Prediction Center today for a severe weather outbreak across Oklahoma, southwest Missouri, and northwest Arkansas, the primary threat is expected to be large hail and damaging winds, but a few tornadoes cannot be ruled out. See the map here. There was/is no threat for Michigan.
The image attached to this story is compliments of the Iowa Environmental Mesonet. See it full size below.
They put a national map together showing the number of days each National Weather Service office around the country has gone WITHOUT issuing a TORNADO WARNING. The Grand Rapids office makes up most of our FOX 17 viewing area along with the NWS office from North Webster, Indiana covering the southern counties. In either case, we’ve gone 266 days (as of March 25) with no tornado warning. Note that areas like northwest California and southern Washington State are in the thousands of days since they generally do not experience much severe weather due to climate specifics for that region. Areas in red and orange on the map have actually gone the longest with no tornado warning issued.
How the severe weather season will shape up here in West Michigan remains to be seen, but it goes without saying that we are long overdue for a major severe weather outbreak. Recall last July 2014 that a tornado was reported in southern Kent County and did plenty of damage about 10:20 PM in Wyoming and Kentwood. It was part of a quick spin-up associated with some non-severe storms at the time. In fact, it occurred between radar scans and there was little/no time to warn for it. No deaths or injuries were reported, but there was widespread damage with trees downs, power lines, roofs and houses, and extended power outages.
You can always get the complete forecast by going to http://www.fox17online.com/weather.