National Weather Service confirms tornado touched down in Canton

1st Michigan December tornado in recorded history


CANTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – The National Weather Service storm survey team confirmed Thursday morning that a tornado touched down in Canton last night. 

The twister’s peak wind was estimated to be 90 mph, which places it in the EF-1 category on the 0-to-5 Enhanced Fujita tornado intensity scale.

The tornado had a very short lifespan, only traveling 2.0 miles from touchdown to dissipation.

Here’s the official report from the NWS storm survey team:  “(the) tornado touched down in a neighborhood just southwest of the intersection of Warren road and North Lilley Road in Canton.  Several pine trees were knocked down along with other large tree limbs. 

EF-1 damage was then found at a light industrial complex on the southwest side of the Canton airport where multiple buildings and vehicles were damaged.  Additional EF-0 damage was found near the intersection of Joy Road and Haggerty Road where a metal roof was taken off a gas station and more tree were damaged.  The tornado then lifted near Haggerty Road and Newport Drive.”

This is the first December tornado in recorded Michigan history.

In fact, there have only been a total of three winter (December to February) tornadoes in Michigan history:

December 23, 2015 – Wayne County
January 18, 1996 – Kalamazoo County
February 28, 1974 – Wayne County

One final comment: in a situation like this, it’s only natural to ask “how come there was no warning?” 

Yesterday’s weather setup was nowhere near a classic tornado setup, as they had down south with those massive, long-track tornadoes. 

Fluke tornadoes like the one that hit Canton are extremely difficult to detect on radar (if at all), and happen so briefly that, even if we see a small suggestion of rotation on a scan of the radar, by the time the next radar scan updates, the tornado is already gone.

This particular tornado was only on the ground for two miles -- it was impossible to issue any tornado warning.

Fortunately, the vast majority of fatalities caused by tornadoes happen with the strong and violent twisters -- which we sometimes can detect 10-15 minutes before they even touch down.

Small, weak tornadoes like last night’s are rarely deadly.


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