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Michigan tornadoes are a rare sight in February

  • Severe thunderstorms accompanied by hail and lightning passed through the state overnight 
  • Two tornadoes swept through Genesee and Calhoun counties between midnight and 2 a.m. 
  • Tornadoes during this time of year are very rare. The last time there was a confirmed tornado in February was in 1974. 

The tornadoes that tore through the Grand Blanc and Marshall areas early Wednesday are a rare occurrence for this time of year, according to the National Weather Service. 

Typically tornado season is in the summer but sometimes the cold water in lakes Erie and Huron mixed with warm, springlike air can cause tornadoes to develop earlier, according to Steve Freitag, a meteorologist at the Detroit office of the National Weather Service  

“We've only had one other (February tornado) here in southeast Michigan and that was February 28, 1974,” he said. The National Weather Service reported four tornadoes that evening across Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties, followed by a second line of storms affecting northern Indiana and parts of northwest Ohio.


According to NWS data dating back to 1950, in Michigan more tornadoes occur in June than any other month. Tornadoes are also the most intense during the summertime. Last August, six tornadoes struck southeast Michigan resulting in 500,000 residents without power, downed trees and powerlines and extensive damage to homes and businesses


On Friday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that it has granted more than $4.6 million to assist 1,632 households in Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, Kent, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland and Wayne counties affected by severe storms and tornadoes last August. 

Wednesday’s tornadoes developed in the overnight hours, following an unseasonably warm Tuesday. Local law enforcement confirmed a tornado near Marshall in Calhoun County at 12:39 a.m.  “The Calhoun County Road Department arrived and cleared roads to allow rescue personnel access to the area and search for injured residents. No injuries have been reported at this time,” The county’s sheriff's department wrote in a social media post

Although roads are starting to open, Calhoun County Sheriff Steve Hinkley warned residents to remain cautious as there may be some downed power lines along main roads. 

Another tornado in Grand Blanc left damage to homes and powerlines. The township police department said the tornado struck the area around 1:20 a.m. Some roads remain closed, officials said, but no injuries have been reported.  

“A large portion of the Grand Blanc area is without power per Consumers Energy. So far no deaths or injuries have been reported,” the township police department wrote in a social media post

The storm, accompanied by lightning, traveled through southern Michigan overnight with wind gusts up to 75 mph and hail as big as a half inch. The severe weather came hours after Detroit, Saginaw and Flint reached record-high temperatures of 73 degrees, according to the National Weather Service

“Anytime you get that kind of warmth and moisture in the area this time of year, you run the risk of repeating storms,” said Dave Kook, meteorologist for the Detroit office of the NWS.We had a strong low-pressure system tracking northeast through the region, providing the cold fronts and warm fronts to help force the storms.”  

A team of meteorologists has begun surveying the areas where tornadoes were reported to assess the damage. Only two tornadoes have been confirmed, but there could be more after the survey is completed, Kook said. 

“The point of the surveys is to find the exact starting location … where the tornado was and what type of damage occurred so that we can assess the strength of the tornado,” he said. 

Over 14,000 Consumers Energy customers had lost power as of Wednesday afternoon. The company began alerting customers Tuesday that they were working to restore power. And over 2,000 DTE customers are out of power. 

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