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Remembering one of metro Detroit's most notorious tornadoes

On March 20, 1976, an F4 tornado devastated West Bloomfield


DETROIT – Today is a very somber anniversary for those of us old enough to remember.  On March 20th, 1976, an F4 tornado devastated West Bloomfield.  I remember that tornado very well:  I lived about four miles away.  It was a Saturday evening, and my parents had gone out to a Bar Mitzvah party. 

This weather nut fourteen year old was home alone with my little sister and our dog.  The skies got dark, and then the power went out.  I immediately grabbed a box of cereal and a box of dog treats (I guess I thought we’d better have some food in case we were trapped), and rushed my sister and the dog down to the basement, where we hid under my mom’s paint table. 

By amazing coincidence, earlier that same day I had purchased my Citizens Band (CB) Radio and, after the all-clear, I went upstairs and listened to the radio’s emergency channel…Channel 9.  A man was in the hardest hit neighborhood and talking on his CB radio.  I can still remember his voice today.  He talked about the street looking like a war zone…as if a bomb had exploded.

Fifteen years ago, I did a special story on the 25th anniversary of that deadly tornado, and the images and interviews resonate just as strongly today as they did then.  Tornadoes DO happen here…even the big bad ones…but today we have more opportunities to receive warnings, especially through weather radios. 

That’s why I pushed hard to start a weather radio campaign here at Local 4.  This will be our fifth year of the campaign and, to date, over 40,000 radios have been purchased. 

We will continue the program this spring and summer, and you will have the opportunity to purchase a weather radio at a very significant discount.  I will let you know the official starting date of the program when I have it.

But for now, take a look at my report from March 20th, 2001.  If there’s one message I want you to get out of this, it’s that what you are watching could happen to you. 

And by the way, out of all that tragedy and destruction, there was one very important positive thing that you benefit from today.  You’ll hear about that at the end of the story.


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