April 1956 tornado outbreak

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April 1956 tornado outbreak
Type Tornado outbreak
Duration April 2–3, 1956
Tornadoes confirmed 47 confirmed
Max rating1 F5 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak2 ~2 days
Damage $58 million
Areas affected Central United States

1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The April 1956 tornado outbreak was a large, deadly tornado outbreak that affected the Great Plains, parts of the South, and the upper Midwest in the contiguous United States. Occurring from April 2–3, 1956, the outbreak produced 47 tornadoes, including an F5 tornado that devastated the Hudsonville and Standale, Michigan areas in the U.S. state of Michigan on April 3. It was one of three tornadoes to move across southwest Lower Michigan on that day. A fourth tornado struck north of the Manistee area. The Hudsonville-Standale tornado killed 18 and injured 340. In addition to confirmed tornadoes, there were several unconfirmed but possible tornadoes. An F2 may have hit east of Ogdensburg, Wisconsin, destroying a general store and a rural school. Nine barns were damaged or destroyed as well.[1] A tornado may have also overturned two buildings and uprooted trees near Pana, Illinois.[2] In addition to a confirmed F2 tornado near Topeka, Indiana, two other unconfirmed tornadoes may have hit northwest of LaGrange and at Emma, destroying or damaging numerous buildings, including a home and a barn that were blown down, and throwing (but not injuring) two people from a horse and buggy.[2]

Meteorological synopsis

Outbreak death toll
State Total County County
Kansas 2 Cowley 1
Elk 1
Kentucky 1 Webster 1
Michigan 20 Benzie 2
Kent 4
Ottawa 14
Oklahoma 5 Creek 5
Tennessee 3 Henderson 3
Wisconsin 9 Portage 2
Green Lake 7
Totals 40
All deaths were tornado-related

Tuesday, April 3, 1956, was a warm and humid day across most of the Midwestern U.S., the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley. Temperatures in the areas affected by the worst of the outbreak were well into the 70s°F, approaching 80 °F with high dew points. A low pressure system with a strong cold front located across the western Great Lakes was moving to the northeast. The front was already responsible for deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas on April 2 in which seven people were killed by the storms. Early on the afternoon of April 3, thunderstorms were already starting to form across Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with the first deadly tornado reported in Wisconsin. A powerful F4 tornado struck the town of Berlin, Wisconsin, in which seven people were killed and a large portion of Berlin destroyed. Prior to the arrival of the storms in the Midwest, schools had closed earlier than usual due to the threat of severe weather.[3]

Tornado table

47 1 4 9 18 9 5 1

These tornadoes were part of a tornado outbreak that took place on April 2–3, 1956, across the U.S Midwest and the Great Lakes regions. In addition to the fatalities in Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan and Berlin, Wisconsin, three people were killed in Tennessee, one person in Kentucky and two more people in Wisconsin. In total, 40 were killed during the entire event.

Confirmed tornadoes

April 2

List of confirmed tornadoes - April 2, 1956
Time (UTC)
Path length
F1 SE of Allendale Worth 0700 2.7 miles (4.3 km) A tornado hit three farms, destroying outbuildings at several locations.[2]
F1 Wilmette Cook 0730 2 miles (3.2 km) Brief touchdown documented by drop in barometric pressure.[2]
F1 Owasso Tulsa 1630 0.3 miles (480 m) Two outbuildings were destroyed in a brief touchdown.[2]
F3 NW of Dacoma to Burlington Woods, Alfalfa 0105 20 miles (32 km) A tornado damaged 11 farms in its path. Five homes were destroyed and 15 were damaged near Hopeton. 11 boxcars were overturned as well.[4]
F2 W of Kremlin to SW of Medford Garfield, Grant 0145 18.4 miles (29.6 km) A tornado developed north of Enid, striking eight farms in its path. One home was destroyed at the end of the path. According to tornado researcher Thomas P. Grazulis, the tornado was at least F3 in intensity, as two of the farms reportedly sustained near-F4-level damage.[4]
F2 W of Tonkawa Kay 0245 0.1 miles (160 m) All buildings except the farmhouse were destroyed on a farm. Chickens were killed, and farm machinery was destroyed.[2] The tornado is not listed as significant by Grazulis.[4]
F1 N of Tishomingo Johnston 0329 8 miles (13 km) Many outbuildings, a metal fence, and a concession stand at a drive-in theater were destroyed.[2]
F2 Skedee to E of Fairfax Pawnee, Osage 0330 12.6 miles (20.3 km) One home was destroyed and two homes had their roofs torn off. Barns were destroyed and livestock were killed as well.[4] The tornado was rated F3 by Grazulis.
F4 NE of Kildare to Gridley, KS Kay, Cowley (KS), Chautauqua (KS), Elk (KS), Greenwood (KS), Woodson (KS), Coffey (KS) 0330 108.3 miles (174.3 km) 2 deaths – A long-tracked tornado family of at least two tornadoes—both of which were themselves tornado families—began near Newkirk, Oklahoma.[4] The first tornado (F4) quickly intensified to near-F5 intensity just south of the Oklahoma–Kansas state line. In the area, one home was completely swept away and many trees were debarked.[4] A savings bond from that home was found near Williamsburg, Kansas—more than 100 mi (160 km) from its origin. In Kansas, the F4 tornado passed south of Maple City, east of Grenola, and northwest of Howard.[4] Near Maple City and Otto, a plastic belt was found embedded in a broken tree.[2] F4 damage was reported south of Grenola before the tornado lifted near Howard. The second tornado (F4) formed southwest of Toronto, leveling a seven-room home just north of town.[4] A trailer was destroyed as well, killing a baby inside. Its body was allegedly found 1 mi (1.6 km) away.[4]
F3 E of Fowler to Drumright Lincoln, Creek 0333 42.6 miles (68.6 km) 5 deaths – A long-tracked tornado began near Jacktown and moved north-northeast to Davenport.[4] Eight members of a family were injured in Davenport. The tornado passed west of Stroud and continued into Drumright.[4] In Drumright, 63 homes were destroyed and 203 damaged, with five deaths, four of which were in one family. A church and numerous rural farms were destroyed as well.[4] The tornado was rated F4 by Grazulis.
F0 NW of Pawnee Rock Barton 0000 0.1 miles (160 m) A farm was damaged.[2]
F3 NW of Claflin to W of Holyrood Ellsworth 0045 5.4 miles (8.7 km) A tornado touched down at 6:45 p.m. CST northwest of Claflin, damaging communication lines outside town.[2] The tornado then struck an oil camp near State Highway 4, damaging small homes.[4] Near Holyrood, the tornado shifted five homes on their foundations, and a gymnasium and bleachers were "torn apart."[4] The tornado produced minimal F2 damage according to Grazulis.
F0 NW of Attica Harper 0110 0.1 miles (160 m) A brief tornado "twisted" buildings and uprooted trees.[2]
F? N of Hunter Mitchell 0130 3.4 miles (5.5 km) A tornado damaged farm buildings and transmission lines.[2]
F3 Ellinwood to NW of Holyrood Barton, Rice, Ellsworth 0230 20.1 miles (32.3 km) This tornado touched down on the northwest side of Ellinwood at 8:30 p.m. CST, where it caused F1 damage[4] to six planes and two hangars, resulting in $30,000 damage.[2] This storm followed the same path as the first Holyrood event.
F1 NE of Whitewater to SE of Florence Butler, Marion 0330 22.9 miles (36.9 km) Barns were destroyed and had their debris scattered for miles.[4] A stone weighing 90 pounds (41 kg) was dropped through a roof.[2] The tornado was rated F2 by Grazulis.[4] This tornado may have been in the same family as the next event.[2]
F3 E of Florence to E of Effingham Marion, Chase, Lyon, Wabaunsee 0330 127 miles (204 km) This long-tracked tornado family of five or more tornadoes began near Cedar Point, where it unroofed a home and destroyed a barn.[2][4] The first member of the family lifted near Cedar Point, and the second tornado developed west of Strong City. Near Strong City, a car was thrown 250 feet (83 yd), injuring the driver.[4] This tornado then lifted and reformed into a third tornado that passed west of Bushong, west of Harveyville, and north of Dover. South of Bushong, a boy was blown through a window and injured his leg.[4] Near Dunlap, the tornado destroyed 16 cottages on Lake Kahola. A fourth tornado likely developed east of Harveyville and passed west of Auburn and through Seabrook.[2] In Seabrook, the tornado broke glass, blew out bricks, and damaged trees and TV aerials. This tornado soon dissipated, and a fifth tornado (F3) touched down near Meriden, passing east of Rock Creek and east of Valley Falls before lifting northwest of Nortonville.[4] F3 damage only occurred in the final 20 mi (32 km) of the path as the tornado destroyed farms and killed cattle, including 19 in a single barn. Damage near Nortonville reached $250,000.[4]
F2 SE of Auburn Nemaha 0445 2.3 miles (3.7 km) A garage was destroyed.[2] The tornado was not listed as significant by Grazulis.[4]
Sources: NCDC Storm Events Database, Grazulis 1993

April 3

List of confirmed tornadoes - April 3, 1956
Time (UTC)
Path length
F3 SE of Sobol Pushmataha 0605 2 miles (3.2 km) All buildings on a farm were destroyed and a school was damaged. This event was listed as an F2 by Grazulis.[4]
F4 SW of Narcissa to Baxter Springs, KS to SE of Carterville, MO Ottawa, Cherokee (KS), Jasper (MO) 0610 41.8 miles (67.3 km) A large, violent, long-tracked tornado touched down just after midnight local time and struck the towns of Miami, Quapaw, and Baxter Springs.[4] F4 damage occurred in Miami and Quapaw, with 46 injuries[2] and 56 homes damaged or destroyed in Miami alone.[4] The tornado destroyed five more homes in Quapaw, with total Oklahoma losses estimated at $500,000.[2] The tornado then crossed the Oklahoma–Kansas state line into Baxter Springs, destroying 14 homes, damaging 13, and causing $125,000 damage, with six injuries reported.[4] A baseball grandstand was destroyed, and trees were uprooted as well.[2] The tornado crossed into Missouri west of Joplin and passed through Webb City,[4] damaging 30 homes and several businesses.[2]
F1 NW of Sulphur Springs McDonald 0630 8.8 miles (14.2 km) Homes sustained roof damage and five barns were destroyed.[4] The tornado was rated F2 by Grazulis.
F2 SE of Avoca Iowa 1700 3 miles (4.8 km) A tornado leveled two barns, one of which had its cement block foundation torn out.[1]
F2 N of Plainfield to NW of Amherst Junction Portage 1850 18.2 miles (29.3 km) 2 deaths – Homes and barns were destroyed at eight different locations. The deaths were each in separate buildings. The tornado was rated F3 by Grazulis.[1]
F4 SW of Berlin to NW of Omro Green Lake, Waushara, Winnebago 1945 11.5 miles (18.5 km) 7 deaths – A factory and at least 20 homes were destroyed, some of which were leveled. Light items from Berlin were found up to 75 miles (121 km) away.[1]
F2 N of Thebes Ashley 1825 2.1 miles (3.4 km) A tornado damaged a home and destroyed a barn and some sheds.[2] The tornado was not listed as significant by Grazulis.[1]
F2 NE of Portland Chicot 1900 1 mile (1.6 km) Two homes were destroyed and two others were damaged. Barns and outbuildings were destroyed as well.[1]
F2 W of Sunflower to Saltillo Sunflower, Leflore, Grenada, Yalobusha, Calhoun, Lee 2030 124.9 miles (201.0 km) A long-tracked tornado family began near Lynn, southwest of Ruleville, where at least one home was destroyed.[1] A separate touchdown near Chesterville passed through Belden and Saltillo, destroying four homes and a school gymnasium.[5]
F2 Cedarbluff to W of West Point Clay 0130 5.1 miles (8.2 km) Two churches along with several homes and barns were destroyed. Livestock was killed as well.[5]
F2 Lawrenceville Lawrence 2030 3.3 miles (5.3 km) A "large building" was destroyed and a concrete building was damaged, with lumber scattered.[2] Several windows were broken as well.[2] The tornado is not listed as significant by Grazulis.[1]
F2 SE of Kempton Ford 2200 2 miles (3.2 km) A chicken coop was destroyed, a barn was unroofed, windows were broken, and other buildings were damaged.[2] The tornado is not listed as significant by Grazulis.[1]
F2 SW of Weldon to E of De Land De Witt, Piatt 2208 9.5 miles (15.3 km) Roofs were torn off homes. Buildings were destroyed on four farms as well.[1]
F1 SE of Cadwell to SE of Arthur Moultrie, Douglas 2300 4.5 miles (7.2 km)
F3 NE of Dixon to Zion Webster, Henderson 2200 22.9 miles (36.9 km) 1 death – One home and several barns were destroyed. Livestock were killed as well. The lone victim was thrown 350 feet (117 yd) from her home.[1]
F0 SW of Pride Union 2330 0.1 miles (160 m) A brief tornado, probably spawned by the same storm that hit Zion, damaged several residences, a barn, and a garage.[2]
F4 Lexington area Henderson 2245 11.6 miles (18.7 km) 3 deaths – A violent tornado destroyed 46 homes and two businesses in Lexington. In the town, 20 businesses and 250 homes were damaged. Bodies were thrown 100 yards (91 m) from a home that "'exploded'."[5]
F1 W of Sulphura Sumner 0145 0.2 miles (320 m) Several homes and two barns were destroyed.[2]
F2 SW of Poland Tippecanoe 2300 0.1 miles (160 m) A brief tornado unroofed a barn and tore off some roof shingles from a farmhouse. A window was blown out as well.[2] The tornado was not rated as significant by Grazulis.[5]
F2 W of Salem Washington 2345 0.1 miles (160 m) A brief tornado touched down just west of Salem, shifting a large bridge. It destroyed or damaged more than 100 structures in Salem and destroyed numerous barns.[5] One of the victims later died in another tornado on March 19, 1963. The tornado was rated F3 by Grazulis.[5] The tornado may have continued to Canton, hitting a church and a school. A freezer was reportedly thrown .5 mi (0.80 km).[5]
F3 NE of Gilead Kosciusko 0104 1.5 miles (2.4 km) Five cottages were leveled and five others were damaged. The tornado was rated F2 by Grazulis.[5]
F2 E of Delong Fulton 0130 4.1 miles (6.6 km) Many barns were damaged.[2] The tornado was not rated as significant by Grazulis.[5]
F1 SW of Wawaka Noble 0150 0.1 miles (160 m) A brief tornado damaged or destroyed six barns, lifting one onto a highway. Another barn "'disintegrated'."[5] The tornado was rated F2 by Grazulis.
F2 SW of Lagrange LaGrange 0205 0.1 miles (160 m) Homes were moved, damaged, and unroofed, and four barns were destroyed.[5] As many as three tornadoes may have hit LaGrange County.[2]
F2 W of Boston Wayne 0230 0.1 miles (160 m) Homes and farms were damaged.[2] The tornado was not rated as significant by Grazulis.[5]
F5 Saugatuck to Hudsonville to S of Lakeview Allegan, Ottawa, Kent, Montcalm 2240 58.8 miles (94.6 km) 17 deathsSee section on this tornado – Officially listed as a single tornado, but may have been a tornado family of two or more tornadoes, one of which was an F4 and the other an F5.[6] The first (F4) tornado may have lifted near Holland, passing aloft over Zeeland[7] before touching down as a second (F5) tornado just east of town.[8] The second tornado then continued northeast before lifting northeast of Trufant.
F4 NW of Onekama to E of Suttons Bay Manistee, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau 2335 50.3 miles (81.0 km) 1 death – This possible tornado family destroyed 13 homes and at least 26 barns before ending over Grand Traverse Bay.[5][6] Two homes in Benzie County were leveled to the ground, one of which was a multi-story building in which one person died.[6] Other homes were reported destroyed in Lake Ann, southeast of Solon, and in Cedar Run.[6] One barn was also destroyed at Bear Lake.[5] Two people (officially only one) may have died.[5] The tornado affected very rural areas for most of its life, and was rated F3 by Grazulis.[5]
F3 S of Bangor to S of Lowell Van Buren, Allegan, Barry, Kent 0015 60.6 miles (97.5 km) This "minimal"[5] F3 tornado began on the south side of Bangor and gradually intensified. Near the Van Buren–Allegan County line, it leveled a farmhouse and swept away several small cottages.[6] The tornado also hit the edge of Bloomingdale.[5] In Allegan, the tornado mostly unroofed a factory and a road commission building, and at least 12 farms reported severe losses to livestock.[6] Afterward, the tornado weakened, turned to the right, and lifted before reforming into a new tornado, as no structural damage occurred and damage to vegetation was lighter than elsewhere along the path.[5][6] The second tornado then re-intensified before badly damaging many farms in Barry and Kent Counties before dissipating near Lowell.[6] In all, the tornado (or tornado family) destroyed 29 homes,[5] one of which was totally leveled in F4 fashion but could not be rated as such due to lack of information about construction quality.[6]
F0 Jenera Hancock 0130 0.1 miles (160 m) Brief touchdown was originally only listed as a funnel cloud aloft.[2]
Sources: NCDC Storm Events Database, Grazulis 1993

Notable tornadoes

Hudsonville/Standale, Michigan

By late afternoon, the cold front crossed over the western Great Lakes including Lake Michigan. Just before 5:00 PM CST, a tornado touched down on the beach near Saugatuck, Michigan, and proceeded 9 mi (14 km), producing F4 damage and injuring seven people while destroying barns, outbuildings and garages.[6][7] The tornado destroyed multiple homes, some of which were swept away. The historic lighthouse on the shore near Saugatuck was also leveled by the winds.[6] Some reports indicate that the tornado dissipated near Holland and formed into a new, more powerful tornado southwest of the Grand Rapids metropolitan area at around 6:30 PM.[7][8] Officially, however, a single continuous track is listed. Beginning in Vriesland in Ottawa County, the F5 tornado moved northeast for 52 mi (84 km) over areas just north and west of Grand Rapids, causing extensive devastation to Hudsonville, Standale and suburban areas of Grand Rapids.[8] Homes in the Hudsonville area were cleanly swept away from their foundations, with only small pieces of debris recovered in some locations. At least one home was so obliterated that all the floor tiles had been completely scoured from the foundation.[6] Vehicles nearby were tossed hundreds of yards and mangled beyond recognition. Extensive wind-rowing of debris was observed, and hundreds of trees were snapped and debarked as well.[8] In all, the tornado destroyed numerous homes and businesses, especially in Standale. Some homes in this area were swept away as well.[6] The tornado continued northeast, destroying a mobile home park before dissipating.[8] Officially, 17 (possibly 18)[5] people were killed and hundreds injured by the storm. This was the last F5 (confirmed and/or possible) in the U.S. state of Michigan and occurred three years after the Flint Tornado that killed 116.

The tornado that struck the Grand Rapids area was the inspiration for the La Dispute song HUDSONVILLE, MI 1956.[citation needed]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Grazulis 1993, p. 994
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag "Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomena". Climatological Data National Summary. Asheville, North Carolina: United States Department of Commerce. 7 (4): 106–114. 1956. 
  3. ^ "The April 3, 1956 Tornado Outbreak: Overview of the Event". crh.noaa.gov. Grand Rapids, Michigan: National Weather Service. 2 August 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Grazulis 1993, p. 993
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Grazulis 1993, p. 995
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Ostuno, E. J. (2008). "A Case Study in Forensic Meteorology: Investigating the 3 April 1956 Tornadoes in Western Lower Michigan". E-Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology. 3 (1): 1–33. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c "The Saugatuck to Holland Tornado". crh.noaa.gov. Grand Rapids, Michigan: National Weather Service. 2 August 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Vriesland to Trufant". crh.noaa.gov. Grand Rapids, Michigan: National Weather Service. 28 September 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 


External links

  • A Case Study in Forensic Meteorology: Investigating the 3 April 1956 Tornadoes in Western Lower Michigan
  • Hudsonville-Standale tornado — WOOD-TV 8
  • "Tornado took out century-old lighthouse" Holland Sentinel
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