Today In Weather History: Tornado Rips Through Michigan, Killing One

The beginning of summer, always near the end of June, should be brought in with sunshine and positivity. In 1987 in Detroit, Michigan, it was instead rung in with an EF-1 tornado that killed one and ripped 50 homes apart in the Chateau Estates trailer park.

No Warning That Day

Residents who remember the incident say that there was no warning that this tornado was going to happen. If you don’t live in the Midwest you may have never heard them, but tornado sirens are common in areas like Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

These loud, piercing sirens go off when conditions are favorable or tornados have been spotted. No sirens went off that day, and residents who were just trying to enjoy the first day of spring were taken by surprise.

The Tornado Itself

Residents of Chateau Estates felt like the tornado formed above them, because they never saw the funnel at all, just debris and pieces of their lives flying around. One resident stated that it was like someone turned on a fan and threw stuff at it, causing it to go everywhere.

The tornado itself was luckily only an EF-1. ‘EF’ stands for Enhanced Fujita, and it is the typical intensity scaling of tornados that is used in the US and most of Canada, the places where tornados are the most common.

EF-1 tornados have a wind speed of between 86 and 110 MPH, on the lower end of what a tornado is capable of. Moderate damage is usually seen, with the wind speed being enough to slide cars, pull roofs from the tops of buildings, and – as Chateau Estates saw – push mobile homes right off of their bases.

The Damage was Extensive

Miraculously only one person was killed, with four people sustaining injuries that were strong enough to take them to the hospital. However, about a quarter of the homes at the park were damaged, or roughly 50.

Many were pushed right off of their foundations and were found feet away from their original place, leaning against trees or other mobile homes.

One resident says she was inside of her home during the tornado and got thrown through a wall and landed in her bathtub when her mobile home got moved around by strong wind gusts.

The property damage this tornado caused in 1987 is estimated to be about $1.7 million.