Today in Michigan weather history: Midwest tornado outbreak of Nov. 17, 2013

70 tornadoes reported across seven states, including Michigan

Tornado Outbreak Nov. 17, 2013 (NOAA)

On Nov. 17, 2013, more than 70 tornadoes moved across part of the Midwest, impacting seven states including Michigan.

Illinois and Indiana were hardest hit by what the National Weather Service (NWS) called a “major late-season severe weather outbreak." The storm flared up early that Sunday afternoon. By late afternoon, five tornadoes were recorded in Michigan.

Here’s a look at where the tornadoes were recorded:

Tornado Outbreak Nov. 17, 2013 (National Weather Service)
Tornado Outbreak Nov. 17, 2013 (National Weather Service)
Radar indicated circulation tracks shown from the Nov. 17, 2013 tornado outbreak in the Midwest. (NOAA)

Fast facts about the tornadoes from the NWS:

  • This event had just over 70 tornadoes across seven states - Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Illinois and Indiana had 55 of these tornadoes.
  • There were 25 tornadoes in Illinois identified, with 14 being significant (EF-2 or stronger). Of these, two were EF-4 and three were EF-3. For a complete listing, see this list from NWS Lincoln, IL.
  • This ranked as the 4th largest outbreak for the state of Illinois, in terms of number of tornadoes, since 1950. (list complied by NWS Lincoln)
  • There were 30 tornadoes in Indiana identified, which ranks this event as the second largest number of tornadoes in one day in state history. (reference)
  • One supercell in Illinois produced five tornadoes, which were the ones to impact Pekin, Washington, Dana, Coal City, Manhattan, and Frankfort.
  • The EF-4 tornado with maximum estimated winds of 190 mph that struck Washington, IL was the strongest on record for Illinois in the month of November since 1950. (reference)

Overall, at least six people were killed and nearly 200 were injured by this massive storm that swept through the region.

WASHINGTON, IL - NOVEMBER 17: The damage is surveyed along Elgin Avenue after a tornado struck on November 17, 2013 in Washington, Illinois. Several tornadoes touched down across the Midwest today with at least three people reported dead in Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) (2013 Getty Images)

As you can see in the photo above, parts of Illinois were hit rather devastatingly. That photo is from Washington, Illinois, in the central part of the state.

Further to the north, there was a Chicago Bears game going on the time. Thankfully, the Windy City did not report any tornadoes that day as the twisters stayed to the south and east.

"Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch Issued 8:40 am on November 17th, 2013" (NOAA)

5 tornadoes in Michigan

As noted, five tornadoes were reported in five different counties -- Muskegon, Cass, Newaygo, Otsego and Ingham. All five were considered relatively weak tornadoes, however the strongest was an EF1 reported near Cassolpolis in Cass County. That tornado’s strongest wind speed was 110 mph. The storm began about 3:27 p.m.

Here’s how NOAA described that:

“A survey of damage in the Cassopolis area by a NWS Survey team revealed that a EF1 tornado produced damage along a roughly four tenths of a mile path. Touchdown occurred on the southern outskirts of Cassopolis at a farm where a older two story barn was severely damaged with the entire second story of the barn being destroyed with damage thrown upward of 200 yards downstream. The tornado continued quickly northeast, passing across the northwestern part of the Ross Beatty Jr./Sr. High School property and impacting a detached two car garage, causing its total destruction. Debris was thrown up to 500 yards northeast from the point of impact onto the Park Shore Golf Course, where several trees were snapped or uprooted. Maximum wind speeds with the tornado are estimated at 110 mph.”

In relative terms, Michiganders were rather spared by this storm. Several buildings were damaged and trees were downed, but there were no reports of severe injuries or deaths.

There were tornado watches and warnings issued in Metro Detroit that evening and a wind warning overnight. But the region was not impacted by the worst of the storm.

Tornado Outbreak Nov. 17, 2013 (National Weather Service)

More: Weather History

About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.