April 3, 1956: Strongest Tornado to Ever Hit Michigan

The date was Tuesday, April 3rd, 1956. A huge storm was brewing in the Midwest that would set its sights on West Michigan. The strongest tornado to ever hit Michigan would pay a visit that day. These tornadoes were part of a tornado outbreak that took place on April 2-3, 1956, across the Midwest and the Great Lakes regions.

With the storm, also came the winds. On Van Buren Street it Hudsonville, the strongest wind on the surface of Earth in all of 1956 was recorded. The tornado was rated an F5. Seventeen people died in the storm, 13 in Hudsonville. The path of the deadly tornado was 48 miles long and at one point was as wide as a football field.

From WOOD TV’s Bill Steffen on Bill’s Blog: “The first of four significant tornadoes that day came onshore off Lake Michigan at Saugatuck and destroyed the lighthouse there. That was an F4 tornado! It dissipated east of Holland with the Hudsonville-Standale tornado forming shortly thereafter, more than likely from the same parent storm. Another tornado struck near Bangor and stayed on the ground for 55 miles before lifting near Alto in SE Kent Co. That tornado injured twelve. Another tornado killed two in Benzie Co.”

Surprisingly, there were several movies of the twister. Here are some of those films…

I think the producer of this clip may have gone a little overboard. The story was bad enough with 17 deaths, without selecting such dramatic music for the clip…

Here is an 8mm home movie as the tornado was moving into the city of Walker…

Here is some great 16mm film footage Shot between April 4-5, 1956, across Standale, Walker, and Comstock Park…

WOOD TV 8 produced a special program in 2006 called “Tracking the Storm” with Meteorologists Craig James and Bill Steffen…


Photo: YouTube/NWSGrandRapids

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1 Comment

  1. Evan Cuperus
    April 3, 2017 - 6:30 pm

    Although I was only 6 years old, I remember looking out the basement window to the west and seeing a glowing cloud in the distance. We lived on Port Sheldon near 12th Avenue. The tornado was wreaking havoc on Port Sheldon from 28th Avenue to 36th Avenue. Once the storm passed, we drove to Beaverdam to see if my aunt, uncle and cousins were all right as there was n telephone service. Our normal route would have been via Port Sheldon, but because of the barricades, we had to find a very cross country way of getting there.


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