Home Tile flooring Bill’s Blog – The Hudsonville-Standale Tornado – 66 years ago

Bill’s Blog – The Hudsonville-Standale Tornado – 66 years ago


Today (Sunday 4/3) is the 66th anniversary of the Hudsonville-Standale tornado.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – This Sunday marks the 66th anniversary of the Hudsonville-Standale tornado, the strongest tornado to ever hit western Michigan.

The strongest wind of the year 1956 on Earth occurred this Tuesday afternoon in Hudsonville, Michigan – United States. (on Van Buren Street) The tornado was rated F5.

The old Fujita scale had F5 winds at 261-318 mph. The new EF5 scale has peak winds at over 200 mph. Regardless, it was the only F5 tornado in the world in 1956.

A file image shows the damage caused by the 1956 Hudsonville-Standale tornado. (via NWS)

Many houses were completely swept away, leaving behind bare foundations. Much debris was picked up by the winds and vehicles were thrown hundreds of meters and were barely recognizable as vehicles. A house that was swept away had its entire tiled floor stripped from the foundation.

Hudsonville tornado map_1522743548387.JPG.jpg
Tornado map of April 3, 1956

The Hudsonville-Standale tornado was one of four strong tornadoes to hit western Michigan that day. The numbers on the map indicate the F-scale tornadoes.

This month of March had been cold and snowy. People were waiting for spring. On Monday, April 2, 1956, warm air moved north from the Gulf of Mexico. Severe thunderstorms developed and produced 19 tornadoes in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. The tornadoes killed seven people. A tornado hopped along a 108-mile path from Oklahoma to Kansas. A savings bond from a destroyed home near Newkirk, Oklahoma, has been found near Williamsburg, Kansas – more than 100 miles from its origin. Near Maple City, Kansas, a plastic belt was found embedded in a tree. Another tornado hopped up and down along a 127-mile path through four counties in Kansas.

On April 3, severe thunderstorms developed from eastern Wisconsin to eastern Oklahoma. These storms produced 28 tornadoes in 11 states. Six of these tornadoes killed 31 people.

Two photos of the same place before and after the tornado

In the late afternoon, a strong waterspout moved toward the shore of Lake Michigan. This first tornado hit Saugatuck, Gibson, Graafschap and South East Holland. This tornado was a powerful F4 and destroyed the Saugatuck Lighthouse and the beach house at Oval Beach.

It is very unusual for a strong tornado to break off from a cold lake, where the water temperature was probably in the 40s.

This tornado injured seven people and destroyed four houses. This tornado occurred around 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and was on the ground for 9 miles.

An aerial photo shows the path of destruction left by the 1956 Hudsonville-Standale tornado. (via NWS)

As the first tornado dissipated, a second quickly formed in Vriesland and rapidly intensified, reaching F5 strength, moving through Hudsonville. I believe it’s Chicago Drive in the top right of the picture. This was the main route into Chicago before I-196 was built, which would be a bit south or to the right of this photo.

An aerial photo shows the path of destruction left by the 1956 Hudsonville-Standale tornado. (via NWS)

Thirteen of the 17 deaths occurred in the Hudsonville area, including two people who were in a car “that was lifted as high as telephone poles.”

This tornado would remain on the ground for nearly 50 miles through Georgetown Township, Standale, Walker, Comstock Park, Rockford and into Trufant in Montcalm County. There have been four deaths in Kent County.

A strong tornado also hit Benzie County that day.

Two stronger tornadoes occurred that evening: an F4 which formed near Lake Michigan and moved through the northwestern counties of Manistee, Benzie and Grand Traverse and an F3 twister that formed near Bangor and stayed on the ground until he reached Lowell. This tornado was on the ground continuously for 55 miles and injured 12 people.

Film still from the Hudsonville stand-up tornado…note the blue sky behind the tornado

the WOODTV Weather Special has a movie of this deadly tornado and tips that can protect you in bad weather.

A file image shows the damage caused by the 1956 Hudsonville-Standale tornado. (via NWS)

Look at this: Former WOODTV weatherman “Buck” Matthews with footage of the tornado and damage. AND Blake Naftel’s superb video on tornadoes. here is more film from Standale, Walker and Comstock Park.

In total, there were 40 storm-related deaths during the April 2-3 storms and 685 injuries. Michigan had a dozen F4-F5 tornadoes from 1953 to 1977 and we haven’t had an EF4/5 tornado since 1977. We’ve been waiting a long time for a violent tornado in Michigan.

Map of F5/EF5 tornadoes since 1950 in the United States

#3 on the map above in the Flint-Beecher tornado of June 8, 1953.

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