Damage Survey of the 2013 Moore EF5 Tornado

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The Moore tornado caused extreme damage consistent with every EF5 damage indicator described in the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

The Moore tornado left extreme damage indicators throughout its path consistent with EF5 intensity.

□ On May 20, 2013, a large funnel touched down in Grady County, Oklahoma. Similar in many ways to the devastating Bridge Creek tornado of 1999, the storm travelled at a fairly slow pace and was tracked by weather helicopters as it roared towards the southern suburbs of Oklahoma City. The tornado rapidly strengthened as it crossed Drexel Avenue and likely reached EF5 intensity three miles west of Moore. A pronounced streak of ground scouring marked the tornado’s inner core as it travelled almost due east through a low density residential area with dozens of large, well-constructed homes. A three-story mansion on South Mays Avenue was nearly leveled by the tornado despite being spared the storm’s most intense winds. Residences impacted directly by the tornado were swept completely away and adjacent trees were stripped of all bark and branches. Vehicles from destroyed homes were thrown over a quarter mile and mangled beyond recognition. After crossing Western Avenue, the core of the storm travelled parallel to a residential subdivision before slamming into Briarwood Elementary School at EF5 intensity. After destroying the school, the tornado entered a densely populated section of Moore at high-end EF4 intensity. Every home within a 150 yard wide swath was completely leveled as the storm made a turn to the northeast. Damage patterns indicate that the tornado briefly reached EF5 strength a second time as it crossed over Plaza Towers Elementary and adjacent homes. More than half of the fatalities occurred in this area.

The tornado continued curving to the northeast before reaching Telephone Road, at which point the storm made a turn to the east-southeast. The northernmost building affected by EF4 winds was a 7-Eleven convenient store where four people sheltering in a walk-in freezer were killed. After crossing the I-35, the tornado abruptly narrowed but continued leaving a streak of EF4 damage. The tornado’s final fatality occurred just west of Highland East Junior High School. In total, the tornado destroyed more than 1,500 homes and caused nearly 2 billion dollars in damage. I surveyed the damage in Moore in the last week of May. My final analysis can be found at bottom.

Large, brick homes on Pennsylvania Avenue were swept completely away and a tree line was reduced to a row of stumps.

A tree line just west of Pennsylvania Avenue was stripped bare. The tornado likely reached EF5 intensity less than a minute before striking this area. Five of the storm’s fatalities occurred in large homes swept completely away between Drexel Avenue and SW 155th Street.

A brick home on Pennsylvania Avenue was swept completely away. The home's residents, like most people in the area, were in an underground storm shelter.

A brick home on Pennsylvania Avenue was swept completely away. The home’s residents, like most people in the area, survived the storm in an underground storm shelter.

A forested area just east of County Edge Drive was stripped bare by winds of EF5 intensity.

A once heavily forested area just east of SW 155th Street was obliterated by winds of EF5 intensity.

Even small shrubs were stripped completely of bark and leaves. Such damage is generally only consistent with EF5 winds.

Even small shrubs were stripped completely of bark and leaves. Heavy debris was thrown several miles and found wrapped around the few remaining trees.

Pieces of destroyed vehicles, including a car seat and a steering wheel, where left strewn amidst the few remaining trees.

Pieces of destroyed vehicles, including a car seat and a steering wheel, where left strewn amidst destroyed trees.

The narrow core of peak winds spared a large, well-built brick home on 149th Street but passed directly over several large trees to the south. The few standing trees were stripped of all bark and branches. Vegetation in the immediate foreground and on the other side of the pond were outside the EF5 damage zone.

The narrow core of peak winds spared a large, well-built brick home on SW 149th Street but passed directly over a forested area to the south. The few standing trees were stripped of all bark and branches. Vegetation in the immediate foreground and on the other side of the pond were outside the EF5 damage zone.

Heavy rainfall in the weeks following the storm altered some of the ground scouring patterns. In most instances, however, it was clear that the tornado's winds were responsible for the

Grass scouring on an uphill slope near a cul-de-sac under construction. While heavy rainfall affected Oklahoma City in the weeks following the storm, all of the vegetation in this area was bent in the direction of the storm’s movement.

Homes on Nightshade Drive were just spared by the worst of the tornado's winds, but high velocity debris left holes in homes on the fringe of the damage swath.

Homes on Nightshade Drive lay just outside the worst devastation. Some buildings were impaled by high velocity debris thrown from the funnel.

Extreme vegetation damaga and ground scouring at the southwest corner of 149th and Western Avenue.

Extreme vegetation damage and ground scouring occurred at the southwest corner of 149th and Western Avenue.

The frame of a black truck was left alongside the road.

A black truck was thrown from one of the residential neighborhoods far to the west and ripped into several pieces. Part of the frame along with the two rear tires is visible at center.

The width of the EF5 damage streak was less than 40 yards.

The EF5 damage streak was less than 40 yards in width. Powerlines visible in the background were installed after the storm.

A tree line was nearly ground completely away just west of Briarwood Elementary.

A tree line was obliterated just west of Briarwood Elementary.

Debris from obliterated homes was ground into small pieces, a sign of extreme intensity.

Debris from obliterated homes was ground into small pieces, a sign of extreme intensity.

The damage contour was sharpy, particularly on the southern edge of the tornado's path.

The damage contour was sharp, particularly on the southern edge of the tornado’s path. The homes visible in this picture were immediately adjacent to the EF5 damage streak.

A neighborhood near Santa Fe Avenue was completely obliterated. Two fatalities occurred in this area.

A neighborhood near Santa Fe Avenue was flattened and partially swept away. Two fatalities occurred in this area.

A huge, crumpled metal object was left in a backyard on Santa Fe Avenue. Local residents stated they had no idea where it came from, but one speculated in originated

A huge, crumpled metal object was left in a backyard on Santa Fe Avenue. Surveyors later determined that it was a water tank that had been hurled 1.3 miles from Western Avenue (Ortega, Burgess et al., 2014).

High velocity debris was left imbedded in the ground in a lowered area off Santa Fe Avenue.

High velocity debris was left imbedded in the ground in a drainage basin adjacent to Santa Fe Avenue. Upon closer inspection, most of the boards had penetrated between 6″ and 18″ into the ground. A damage survey concluded that several homes on SW 147th Street (two blocks beyond the grass field) were obliterated in EF5 fashion (Ortega, Burgess et al., 2014).

Metal fence posts anchored 18' deep in concrete were a common site throughout the damage zones. Fence posts adjacent to homes with EF3 damage were bent nearly to the ground, whereas the posts were removed entirely in the worst affected areas.

Metal fence posts anchored 18″ deep in concrete were a common site throughout the damage zones. Fence posts adjacent to homes with EF3 damage were bent nearly to the ground, whereas others were removed entirely in the worst affected areas.

A cargo container was thrown more than a quarter of a mile (according to a local resident) and left in the backyard of a leveled home.

A cargo container was thrown more than a quarter of a mile (according to a local resident) and left in the debris of a leveled home.

All that remained of a home where a fatality occurred was the foundation.

In the foreground, the remains of a brick home located a block southwest of Plaza Towers Elementary.

The remains of large, two-story homes of solid construction near Plaza Towers Elementary.

The remains of large, two-story homes of solid construction near Plaza Towers Elementary. I was unable to access the most intense damage on SW 14th Street due to numerous police checks and road blocks.

The tornado caused EF5 damage to a row of homes just south of Plaza Towers Elementary. Most of the homes were large but likely not of "superior construction," a

More than half of the tornado’s 24 fatalities occurred at Plaza Towers Elementary and adjacent homes. Seven children were killed in the collapse of the school and another six died in four homes swept completely away, primarily on SW 14th Street (the road with the empty foundations at left center). The school’s large field likely provided the tornado’s winds a brief respite from ground friction. Damage patterns indicated the most intense winds occurred during the backside of the storm. (Image by Geoff Legler)

Heavy damage at Moore Medical Center.

Heavy damage at Moore Medical Center. Small trees in the parking lot were stripped completely of bark and branches. A damage survey concluded that a row of homes just west of the complex experienced EF5 damage (Ortega, Burgess et al., 2014).

Due to extensive warning, no fatalities occurred in the medical center.

Due to extensive warning, no fatalities occurred in the medical center.

Extreme damage in the vicinity of the medical center.

Extreme damage in the vicinity of the medical center.

Dozens of vehicles were mangled beyond recognition in the medical center's parking lot.

Hundreds of vehicles were mangled beyond recognition in the tornado’s path.

A large theater complex experienced minor damage as the tornado made a brief jog to the north. Buildings on three sides of the theater complex experienced EF3 damage, yet none of the small trees in the theater's parking lot were downed.

A large theater complex experienced minor damage as the tornado made a brief jog to the north. Buildings on three sides of the theater complex experienced EF3+ damage yet none of the small trees in the theater’s parking lot were uprooted.

Just west of the freeway, a large bowling alley was leveled to the ground. The steel cross-beams overlying the structure were broken and denuded. In the building's parking lot, parking signs were bent to the ground facing south. Some of the signs were bent in opposing directions at the base or snapped off entirely.

Just west of the freeway, a large bowling alley was leveled to the ground. The steel cross-beams overlying the structure were broken and denuded. In the building’s parking lot, signs were bent to the ground in a southerly direction. Some of the signs were twisted due to the opposing forces in the front and backside of the storm. Large pieces of concrete were chipped from curbsides due to impacts from heavy debris.

The tornado abruptly narrowed after crossing XX Street.

The tornado abruptly narrowed after crossing the I-35 and turned to the east-southeast. The metal stand of a billboard was bent and broken just above ground level.

The tornado's inner core narrowed significantly as it entered East Moore. A trail of partial grass scouring and wind rowing only 10 yards wide was left in a field between Broadway and Tower Drive.

A trail of partial grass scouring and wind rowing only 15 yards wide was left in a field by Tower Drive. A powerline from Broadway Street (marked by an identification code) was lofted a quarter mile and wrapped in sheet metal.

An RV was thrown from an unknown location more than 400 yards to the west and completely destroyed.

An office trailer was thrown from an unknown location and completely destroyed.

Frail sheds only a few yards away from the damage core were left standing.

Frail sheds only a few yards away from the damage core were left standing.

The tornado's damage path became extremely sharp in eastern Moore. Homes on the south side of Madison Place Drive whereas homes on the other side of the street were leveled. A light pole was nearly pulled from its anchorage and thick brick pillars were ripped from the ground.

The tornado’s damage contour became extremely sharp in eastern Moore. Homes on the south side of Madison Place Drive suffered superficial damage whereas homes on the other side of the street were leveled. A light pole was nearly pulled from its anchorage and thick brick pillars were ripped from the ground.

Personal Damage Survey Conclusions: Due to my belief that the Enhanced Fujita Scale grossly underestimates winds in violent tornadoes, the wind ranges I utilize are based on my research, discussions with wind engineers and comparisons between known surface readings and adjacent damage indicators in past tornadoes. My wind estimates are significantly higher than those employed by the National Weather Service. 

Peak Intensity: EF5 (260mph+)

□ The Moore tornado likely reached EF5 intensity just east of Drexel Avenue and largely maintained this intensity up until it impacted Briarwood Elementary. The worst damage was confined within a 30-yard wide streak that was made visible by ground scouring and extreme vegetation damage. The largest trees impacted by the storm were stripped completely of bark and branches in a manner congruent with the most intense documented tornadoes. Vehicles were pulverized and large cargo containers and other objects weighing well over 10,000lbs were hurled more than a mile. Well-constructed two-story homes were swept completely away in areas just west of Moore. A secondary intensity maxima may have occurred from Plaza Towers Elementary to just west of the Moore Medical Center, where several entire streets of homes was reduced to concrete slabs. Pronounced wind rowing was visible in aerial photographs and grass was ripped from the ground. Metal fence posts with light concrete anchorage were bent to the ground or completely uprooted by a mixture of debris impacts and extreme winds.

The sharp contour between EF5 damage and EF1 damage is visible in this image from SW 149th Street.

The sharp contour between EF5 damage and EF1 damage is visible in this image from SW 149th Street.

The List of the Strongest Tornadoes Ever Recorded (Pre-1970): Part II

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Vehicle damage is one way to ascertain the intensity of historical tornadoes. Cars built pre-1960 were significantly heavier and, likely, more difficult to damage than modern, light-weight vehicles. At left, extreme vehicle damage following the 1953 Beecher tornado. At center, a destroyed car after the 1956 Hudsonville tornado. At right, a truck stripped to its frame following a tornado in Udall, Kansas, in 1955.

Vehicle damage is one way to ascertain the intensity of historical tornadoes, particularly since cars built pre-1960 were significantly heavier than modern light-weight vehicles. At left, extreme vehicle damage following the 1953 Beecher tornado (Image from the Flint Public Library). At center, a destroyed car after the 1956 Hudsonville tornado (Image by Thelma Bakker). At right, a truck stripped to its frame following the catastrophic Udall tornado of 1955.

□ While nowhere near definitive, objectivity is attempted through the use of damage photographs, reliable survey reports and fatality statistics. Unverified accounts, vague newspaper descriptions and damage figures are not considered. Tornadoes that occurred before 1880 and tornadoes that caused less than 10 deaths are excluded to eliminate the thousands of rural storms that failed to attract significant media attention. Little to no photographic evidence makes the inclusion of some past tornadoes unfeasible without further information.

Click to see Part I.

The list of the strongest tornadoes from 1880 to 1969:

15. Winston County, Alabama – April 20, 1920

14. Gans, Oklahoma – January 22, 1957

13. Colfax, Wisconsin – June 4, 1958

12. Snyder, Oklahoma – May 10, 1905

11. Ruskin Heights, Missouri – May 20, 1957

10. Scott County, Mississippi – March 3, 1966

9. Woodward, Oklahoma – April 9, 1947

8. Pomeroy, Iowa – July 6, 1893

7. Udall, Kansas – May 25, 1955

6. Tupelo, Mississippi – April 5, 1936

5. Hudsonville, Michigan – April 3, 1956

4. Beecher, Michigan – June 8th, 1953

3. New Richmond, Wisconsin – June 12, 1899

2. De Soto/Murphysboro/West Frankfurt, Illinois – March 18, 1925

1. Sherman, Texas – May 15, 1896

_______________

7. Udall, Kansas – May 25, 1955

The Udall tornado caused the highest death toll in a US town with a population under 1,000 residents. The town's small business destrict was wrecked, whereas homes immediately to the east were swept completely away.

The Udall tornado caused the highest death toll in a US town with a population under 1,000. The town’s block-long business district was wrecked, whereas homes immediately to the south were swept completely away.

□ On the evening of May 25, 1955, a powerful supercell thunderstorm was edging northward near Ponca City, Oklahoma. After spawning a tornado that took 20 lives in the town of Blackwell, the storm produced another tornado that touched down near the Kansas border just before 10pm. Witnesses in the area reported that the tornado, which was made visible by near constant lightning, was approximately a quarter mile wide early in its development (NWS Storm Reports). The storm widened and strengthened as it moved northward, eventually expanding to more than half a mile in diameter. Maps from the time show the tornado traveled almost due north, but damage patterns indicate the tornado made a turn to the northeast as it roared towards the tiny town of Udall, which had only 600 residents (LIFE, 1955). The town’s population was within the boundaries of a tornado watch but a slight bureaucratic delay meant that the alert was not issued until 10:08pm. As a result, most residents who watched the 10 o’clock news were told that all advisories had been lifted (Smith, 2010). Many residents were in bed at 10:25pm, the moment the storm struck.

As the tornado reached the southwestern edge of town, it devastated the local high school and hurled vehicles from nearby houses more than a quarter mile. A massive electrical arc lit up the sky as the tornado struck a power station on 3rd Street, causing the entire town to disappear into darkness. The roar of the approaching storm gave many residents valuable time to seek shelter but the intensity of the winds below 2nd Street left nowhere safe to take cover. Rows of homes were swept completely away as the core of F5 winds passed just south of the town’s commercial strip (LIFE, 1955). The ensuing blizzard of high velocity debris killed people who attempted to run towards the few underground storm caves in town, including a couple and their two children (Raw Data Report, 1955). After leveling the town hall, the tornado crossed the railroad tracks that bisect the center of Udall and obliterated buildings in a neighborhood to the northeast. A nursing home on East Lewis Street was destroyed, leading to multiple fatalities. After exiting town, the tornado left a wide streak of scoured vegetation. (LIFE, 1955). A total of 75 people were killed in Udall, and another five lost their lives in a home south of town.

When the final people succumbed to their injuries, 13% of the town’s population was dead. There were multiple fatalities in 17 households, with up to five deaths in a single home (List of Deceased). The incredible intensity of the tornado left unusual sights across town. The damage to Udall’s public school was perhaps the most intense ever photographed. Thick, steal cross-beams arching over the school’s gym were snapped and, in some cases, blown completely away (NWS image). Near one of the classrooms, the severely denuded frame of a Ford truck was left tangled in a partially debarked tree. Areas of grass around the campus were scoured from the ground, and low-lying vegetation was stripped bare (Udall Historical Museum). Farther inside town, power poles were snapped like toothpicks several feet above the ground and a 30ft by 40ft concrete block building was swept away. The Udall event remains by far the deadliest tornado in Kansas history and one of the worst disasters to ever occur within the boundaries of tornado alley.

Vehicles across town were thrown long distances and mangled beyond recognition. At left, the tornado's most iconic sight was the remains of a truck wrapped around a tree near the high school. A postcard from the time wrote that the (very likely deceased) driver was found a quarter mile away.

Vehicles across town were thrown long distances and mangled beyond recognition. At left, the tornado’s most iconic sight was the remains of a truck wrapped around a tree near the public school. A postcard from the time wrote that the (very likely deceased) driver was found a quarter mile outside town. (Images from the Udall Historical Museum)

At right, the foundation of a home that was swept completely away. Nearly every home south of 2nd Street was obliterated in F5 fashion. At right, a school with thick brick walls was nearly leveled to the ground. (Images from the Wichita Eagle)

At left, the foundation of a home that was swept completely away. Nearly every home south of 2nd Street was obliterated in F5 fashion. At right, a grade school with thick brick walls was nearly leveled to the ground. (Images from the Udall Historical Museum)

Composite aerial view of the town taken two days later after only moderate clean-up had occurred. The southern section of town (at left) was swept completely away, leaving a checkerboard of empty foundations. The rest of the community was left as a patchwork of F5 to F0 damage, with the least damage occurring in the northwest corner of town.

Composite aerial view of the town taken two days later after only moderate clean-up had occurred. The southern section of town (at left) was swept completely away, leaving a checkerboard of empty foundations. The rest of the community was left as a patchwork of F5 to F0 damage, with the least damage occurring in the northwest corner of town.

At left, ground scouring just east of town. At right, an area near the high school that appears to have been stripped bare (as evidenced by the tire tracks, which are a common sight in ground effected by F5 winds). (Right image from the Udall Historical Society)

At left, ground scouring just east of town. At right, a field near the high school that appears to have been stripped bare (as evidenced by the post-storm tire tracks, which are a common sight in ground effected by F5 winds). The trees in the background have been completely debarked. (Right image from the Udall Historical Museum)

6. Tupelo, Mississippi – April 5, 1936

Catastrophic damage following the 1936 Tupelo tornado.

Catastrophic damage following the 1936 Tupelo tornado.

□ One of the worst tornado disasters in world history occurred in the midst of a wide-scale severe weather outbreak that brought devastating tornadoes throughout the Southeastern United States in the spring of 1936. Just after 8pm on April 5th, a massive funnel touched down approximately eight miles southwest of Tupelo, Mississippi. Little is known about the tornado’s path outside the city, but several fatalities occurred in rural areas, including one person who was killed in a vehicle swept off a road (Mississippi State Geological Survey). As the tornado raced through the outskirts of town it swept away the Burroughs home, leading to the deaths of the couple and their 11 children (New York Times, 1936).

One witness described the storm as “four funnels that merged” just west of town (The Press-Scimitar, 1936). More than a dozen large, well-constructed plantation homes were swept completely away as the tornado entered the wealthy Willis Heights neighborhood (Grazulis, 1993). Reported damage patterns indicate the tornado had a complex multiple vortex structure as some homes adjacent to the worst devastation suffered relatively modest damage (Mississippi State Geological Survey). The tornado tore through residential neighborhoods just north of the city’s business district, with most of the destruction occurring in a 300 yard wide swath centered near the intersection of Madison and Allen Street. One witness recalled that “all of a sudden, all these houses across the street went down like paper” (Edith Gurner, 2008). Residents scrambled into unusual hiding spots as the tornado approached, including one man who survived the storm after crawling into a manhole.

The tornado likely moved in excess of 55mph and took less than two minutes to reach the eastern side of Tupelo. Tens of thousands of pounds of debris were centrifuged around the core of the tornado as it crossed Gum Pond, where dozens of bodies from across town were later recovered. Many of the dead pulled from the water were black victims who likely originated from a working class neighborhood several blocks to the west. Materials from across town piled against the eastern shore of the pond as the tornado exited the area and plowed to the northeast. Heavy timbers and construction beams pierced deeply into the ground and the thick, concrete Battle of Tupelo Monument was blown apart. Additionally, fields east of town were scoured of vegetation and left covered with pulverized debris the size of woodchips (Mississippi State Geological Survey).

After the storm passed, rescue workers and the citizens of Tupelo combed the wreckage as torrential rain fell over the area. One survivor later reported that there was an eerie silence in the worst affected areas, without a single cry or moan coming from the rubble (Moore, 1992). The condition of some of the bodies made determining even the sex of the dead challenging (Mississippi State Geological Survey). Entire families were wiped out in the storm, with multiple households suffering more than five fatalities. The tornado’s final death toll is debatable due to the unknown fate of approximately 100 critically injured white patients and an unknown (but likely similar) number of injured black residents (Grazulis, 1993). The official death toll of 216 only takes into account the immediate fatalities from the storm, so later estimates were increased to 233. A final figure of 250 deaths seems appropriate, making the Tupelo event the deadliest tornado disaster in a single US town (Grazulis, 1993). The fatality rate within the main damage swath was perhaps the highest of any tornado to cause more than 100 deaths since the turn of the 20th century. While the storm was largely forgotten amidst the turmoil of the Great Depression, it remains one of the most catastrophic severe weather events to occur on American soil.

Aerial views of damage in Tupelo. At left, looking northeast at the tornado's path through the city. Gum Pond is visible at distance.

Aerial views of damage in Tupelo. At left, the devastation around Gum Pond. Possible vegetation scouring is visible atop the mound at right center. At right, looking northeast at the tornado’s path through the city.

Views of damage in Tupelo.

Views of damage in Tupelo. At left, the remains of homes and a tree that was stripped bare by Gum Pond. At bottom right, only sections of baseboard remain where a home once stood.

More scenes of devastation. The heavily damaged mansion at right is similar to nearby residences that were reduced to their foundations. The three-story Huffman house was swept completely away, leading to several fatalities.

At left, complete devastation in the eastern section of town. At right, a heavily damaged mansion that was similar to nearby residences that were reduced to their foundations. The three-story Hoffman house at 365 North Church Street was swept completely away, leading to several fatalities.

At left, the remains of the Hoffman mansion, which was swept down to its baseboards, leading to several fatalities. At right, a field that was "stripped bare" just east of town. (Mississippi State Geological Survey, 1936)

At left, the remains of the Hoffman mansion, which was swept down to its baseboards. Homes across the street suffered relatively modest damage. At right, a field that was “stripped bare” just east of town. (Mississippi State Geological Survey, 1936)

5. Hudsonville, Michigan – April 3, 1956

The Hudsonville never took on the "wedge" shape typical of most F5 tornadoes and instead appeared as a large funnel, often with two or more vortexes visible at once. (Image by Marvin Bueker)

The Hudsonville tornado never took on the “wedge” shape typical of most F5 tornadoes and instead appeared as a large funnel, sometimes with two or more vortices visible at once. (Image by Marvin Bueker)

□ In the spring of 1956, one of the most violent tornadoes ever documented touched down far outside tornado alley in the outskirts of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thousands of residents across the area witnessed the widely visible funnel as it turned to the north-northeast at nearly 50mph. The first instances of F5 damage occurred only five minutes after touchdown as the tornado crossed New Holland Street. Several newly built homes in the area were swept completely away, leading to the storm’s first fatality. Heavy pieces of furniture from the destroyed residences were thrown several hundred yards at high speeds, leaving long gouge marks in the ground upon impact. Aerial views of ground scouring indicate that the tornado intensified even further as it continued towards the west side of Hudsonville. The storm was well into the F5 category when it crossed the intersection of Van Buren Street and 40th Avenue. Seven homes within a 100-yard wide streak nearly vanished without a trace. The Oostendorp home was swept completely away along with the flooring and plumbing fixtures, leading to the deaths of the homeowner and his infant son (1956tornadoes). Vegetation around the home was scoured from the ground or left clinging by only a few roots, whereas neighboring homes only 60 yards to the east were left damaged but still standing.

The tornado maintained its strength as it crossed Port Sheldon Street near Elmwood Lake. Approximately fifteen homes were considered destroyed in this area. Four fatalities occurred in one home that was swept completely away. The underground basement of the home where the fatalities occurred was swept clean of furniture and personal affects. Debris from obliterated structures was whipped into long lines of wind rowing that extended more than a half mile through the surrounding fields. A car that had been driving on Port Sheldon Street was hurled several hundred feet, killing the two occupants. In total, 13 deaths were reported in the Hudsonville area.

After crossing the Grand River, the tornado swept through rural areas near the town of Standale, where four people died (Sheboygan Journal Wisconsin, 1956). The tornado would continue for another 40 miles through sparsely populated areas north of Grand Rapids. The final fatality occurred near Comstock Park, where several homes were leveled to the ground. Photographs indicate that the tornado narrowed into a long, snake-like funnel in the latter stages of its life before finally dissipating. Overall, the tornado caused 18 deaths and completely obliterated nearly 100 homes.

The remains of a home that was swept completely away by the tornado. Vegetation around the bare foundation was scoured from the ground, and the fallen tree trunk behind the home was debarked and stripped of branches. (Image by )

The remains of a home where a man and his young son were killed. Vegetation around the bare foundation was scoured from the ground and the fallen tree trunk behind the home was debarked and stripped of branches. Much of the furniture and debris from the home was found more than a quarter mile away. Amazingly, the homeowner’s wife and daughter survived the tornado, though both were critically injured. (Image by Thelma Bakker)

Extreme damage to cars near Port Sheldon Street. Vehicles in the 1950's were significantly heavier and, theoretically, more difficult to damage than contemporary light-weight cars. Two fatalities occurred when a car was swept off of Port Sheldon Street and thrown more than 100 yards. (Images by Thelma Bakker)

Extreme damage to cars near Port Sheldon Street. The mangled car at right originated from a home where four fatalities occurred. (Images by Thelma Bakker)

Aerial view of F5 damage to two homes along BLANK street. The tornado's narrow path is made visible by streaks of pronounced wind rowing, an indicator of extreme intensity.

Aerial view of F5 damage to two homes along 40th Avenue. The tornado’s narrow path was made visible by streaks of pronounced wind rowing, an indication of extreme intensity. Similar wind rowing was photographed throughout the tornado’s damage path. All of the photographs used in this section came from 1956tornadoes flickr page, which is the single best resource for information and imagery on the Hudsonville tornado.