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“In Just a Few Seconds…” An Analysis of the Decisions Made In the Path of an F5 Tornado.

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Presentation on theme: "“In Just a Few Seconds…” An Analysis of the Decisions Made In the Path of an F5 Tornado."— Presentation transcript:

1 “In Just a Few Seconds…” An Analysis of the Decisions Made In the Path of an F5 Tornado

2 Event Overview Only F5 tornado in West Michigan Only F5 tornado in West Michigan 17 killed, 340 Injured, $12 million damage 17 killed, 340 Injured, $12 million damage Worst Natural Disaster in Area History Worst Natural Disaster in Area History Three other strong to violent tornadoes Three other strong to violent tornadoes

3 Good Friday, March 30, 1956 Photos courtesy of Joan Mull and Robert Bianchi There were ice and snow storms the last week of March, 1956 and 5 inches of snow fell on April 7, 1956 In between came the worst tornado outbreak in area history on April 3rd. Spring in Michigan, 1956 Saturday, April 7, 1956

4 These April 3 rd Front Page Headlines were a Clue

5 Plot of Tornado Paths during Outbreak of April 2-3, 1956 Tornado Outbreak on April 2-3, 1956 from Oklahoma to Mississippi and north to Wisconsin and Michigan produced 40 fatalities and at least 17 tornadoes of F3 or greater intensity. The Standale/Hudsonville tornado was the strongest and deadliest.

6 F4 2 deaths 24 inj 200 yds wide Worst damage in Benzie County F3 12 inj 150yds wide Bangor to Lowell Hudsonville/Standale F5 F4 7 deaths, 50 inj Berlin, WI F2 2 deaths 7 inj Bancroft, WI F2 F1 F3F2 Tornadoes in Wisconsin earlier that afternoon killed nine people and Michigan was put on alert. Schools let out early in Holland and Civil Defense was notified by 3 pm.

7 Camp Gray 2.Oval Beach beach house 3.Saugatuck Lighthouse 4.Denison Estate 5.James Boyce house 6.Gene Huyser house 7.Joseph Wolf house 8.Rivulet Hurst Dairy 9.Oetman Farm 10.Heetderks Farm 11.Genzink house 12.Modder’s Plumbing 1 Tornado #1 :

8 Before and After photos of the James Boyce house near Gibson. Three people escaped with minor injuries. Photos courtesy Jim Boyce and the Saugatuck/Douglas Historical Society Aware of threat, talking about the unusual look to the sky. Saw it coming ran for basement, did not have enough time to get there.

9 Photos of the tornado as it was passing near Graafschap. From West 32 nd Street looking south Credit: Jarvin Kleiman, courtesy of Dirk Bloemendaal

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11 Hudsonville: New Holland Street: First fatality was here. Only seconds to react. Did not get to basement. Victim was on second floor. Direction of tornado

12 40 th and Van Buren: 3 people killed here. 5 year old in basement and two people in house with no basement. Several people survived by taking shelter in a ditch. F5 damage was done here. Direction of tornado

13 Example of F5 damage: home completely swept away

14 36 th and Port Sheldon: 8 people killed in this area. Two elderly, died in their home. Two died in a car, trying to flee the storm, drove into it. Four died after leaving their house to get to the neighbors, hit by flying debris.

15 28 th and Baldwin: Another fatality in this area: 3 year old in basement, house collapsed into basement

16 Standale, Michigan: One fatality, an elderly, bed-ridden woman on second floor of house. Direction of tornado

17 Standale Business District from the ground It was after business hours and higher ground allowed for earlier sighting the tornado approaching. Photo Credit: Ken Foster, Lou Nichols

18 Nixon Avenue: NW Grand Rapids Direction of Tornado

19 Tornado moving through NW Grand Rapids Photo credit: Marvin Bueker, George Davis

20 Vinecroft Street: Two fatalities here One fatality in a house. Family did not have time to get to the basement. Second fatality in a car, trying to flee the tornado.

21 4 Mile Road, Comstock Park The 17 th and final fatality was here, house collapsed, no basement Photos courtesy of Pat Ykema

22 Path of Destruction through Walker, Comstock Park and Belmont Photos courtesy Paul Kovalak

23 Photo Credit: Jack Erickson And to Rockford…

24 A Closer Look 17 fatalities, over 300 injured 17 fatalities, over 300 injured 5 killed in houses with a basement (did not get there) 5 killed in houses with a basement (did not get there) 4 killed outside by flying debris 4 killed outside by flying debris 3 killed in houses with no basement 3 killed in houses with no basement 3 killed while fleeing in a car 3 killed while fleeing in a car 2 killed in basement (both were small children) 2 killed in basement (both were small children) Recurring theme: lack of awareness, not enough time to react, no plan. Other issues: False optimism, belief that “it can’t happen here”,

25 Discussion How to remedy against complacency? How to remedy against complacency? Must we wait for an historic event? Must we wait for an historic event? Eliminating threat versus minimizing threat Eliminating threat versus minimizing threat When is it safe to drive away? When is it safe to drive away?


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