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Michigan tornadoes: By the numbers

heavily damaged building after a tornado in Michigan
Damage to the strip mall on the 2000 block of W. Centre Ave. from the May 7 storm. (Bridge photo by Mark Bugnaski)
  • The National Weather Service confirmed four tornadoes tore through southwest Michigan Tuesday night
  • The tornadoes uprooted trees, damaged homes and buildings in the area
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Branch and Cass counties, where the tornadoes occurred 

The tornadoes that ripped through southwest Michigan this week were on the ground from as little as one minute to as many as 27 minutes, and they cut a path of destruction that, in one case, extended almost 12 miles, according to the National Weather Service. 

So far, officials have confirmed four tornadoes from the Tuesday evening storms.


Here’s a closer look:

  1. Portage (Kalamazoo County) 

The most damaging of the four tornadoes was that of Portage.

The National Weather Service has rated it an EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which classifies tornadoes based on wind speed. The estimated peak wind was 135 mph. 

The tornado's path was roughly 11 miles, beginning near the intersection of South 10th Street and West R Avenue and ending west of 31st Street. Its maximum width was about 300 yards which is equivalent to about three football fields. 

the inside of a Jude's barbershop is damaged
At Jude’s Barbershop in Portage, workers hid in the bathroom as the storm blew through to escape injuries during the May 7 storm. (Bridge photo by Mark Bugnaski)

The storm began around 5:55 p.m. and lasted on the ground for 22 minutes, until 6:17 p.m. Many homes were destroyed including two mobile home communities. 


There were also several buildings in a strip mall in which the roof and walls were torn off, and heavy damage to a FedEx building, where 50 people were trapped inside during the storm.

The Enhanced Fujita scale classifies tornadoes from weak to catastrophic, based on wind speed. 

EF0 (weak) 65 to 85 mph

EF1 (moderate) 86 to 110 mph

EF2 (significant) 111 to 135 mph

EF3 (severe) 136 to 165 mph

EF4 (extreme) 166 to 200 mph

EF5 (catastrophic) >200 mph

Source: National Weather Service

2. Dowagiac (Cass County)

At about 5:11 p.m. an EF1 tornado formed in Cass County and lasted about 27 minutes. Its peak wind reached 95 mph as the storm traveled about 11.83 miles. The tornado reached its maximum width of 950 yards near Twin Lakes. 

According to the National Weather Service Northern Indiana office, the tornado started in a field north of the Dowagiac Municipal Airport and traveled northeast before it dispersed near the Cass and Van Buren county line. 

Hundreds of trees and a power pole along the tornado’s path were snapped or uprooted. A barn on Wickett Road was also damaged, the weather service reports. 

3. Union City (Branch County) 

The Union City tornado began at 6:07 p.m. and only lasted a minute. The path of the tornado was just over a mile and was 100 yards wide. The EF1 storm reached winds up to 95 mph. 

The weather service describes it as a brief “secondary” tornado that formed after a larger tornado dispelled northwest of the area. 

4. St. Joseph and Branch counties

The Northern Indiana office of the NWS confirmed a tornado that started in central St. Joseph County and eventually dissipated in Branch County, where it is estimated that the storm reached winds of up to 130 mph. The damage in Branch County is consistent with an EF2 storm, according to the NWS. The weather service has not released final details on the storm’s rating, track or timing.


Scam warning

As residents are cleaning debris from the storm, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued warnings Tuesday about “after-the-disaster scams,” and things people should look out for before signing contracts or placing deposits. 

Tips include: 

  • Get in touch with your insurance company 
  • Speak to a local licensed professional
  • Review credentials and references
  • Get more than one written estimate

“Unfortunately, bad actors look at storm cleanup as an opportunity to take advantage of victims who are desperate to repair damage right away,” Nessel said in a press statement. “I continue to urge Michiganders to do their research before making any major decisions that will impact their home or business.” 

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