Gaylord tornado first EF-3+ in Michigan since 2012

Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II hosted a press conference on recovery efforts after...
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II hosted a press conference on recovery efforts after touring impacted areas.(Michigan State Police)
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 10:18 PM EDT
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WNEM) - Tornadoes in the state of Michigan are nothing new. According to a climatology map from the Storm Prediction Center during the period of 1985-2014, Michigan averages 16 tornadoes per year.

More often than not, the tornadoes we experience here are on the lower end of the Enhanced Fujita Scale, EF-0 or EF-1. These tornadoes have winds that measure between 65 mph and 110 mph.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale used to assess tornado strength.
The Enhanced Fujita Scale used to assess tornado strength.(NOAA/NWS)

But on Friday May 20th, after a damage survey was completed by the National Weather Service, the Gaylord tornado was rated an EF-3 tornado, with an estimated peak wind of 150 mph. This tornado was on the ground for roughly 20 minutes, and traveled 16.6 miles, producing a damage path around 200 yards wide.

While F-3 (previous Fujita scale) & EF-3+ tornadoes (136+ mph) aren’t unheard of in the state of Michigan, they don’t happen often.

According to NOAA’s Storm Events Database, from January 1st, 1950 to May 23rd, 2022, only 2 instances of tornadoes this strength had occurred after the year 2000, before the Gaylord tornado touched down last Friday.

During that same span, there had only been 99 instances of F-3/EF-3 or higher tornadoes out of 1,194 total tornadoes since 1950, which equates to roughly 8%.

The last tornado that reached this level of strength occurred near Dexter in Washtenaw County back in 2012, with a peak wind of 140 miles per hour. Before that, it was all the way back in 2007 in Eaton County near Charlotte.

WNEM-TV5 Viewing Area History

In the TV5 viewing area, you have to go all the way back to July 2nd, 1997 for a tornado that touched down near Clio. This was apart of a bigger tornado outbreak that had 13 tornadoes in total.

Around a year before that, an F-3 tornado struck the city of Frankenmuth on June 21st, 1996. We did a special TV5 Vault on the Frankenmuth tornado, you can find that here: TV5 Vault: 1996 Frankenmuth Tornado.

And of course, no one could forget the Beecher tornado, which was the TV5 viewing area’s only F-5 storm, occurring on June 8th, 1953.

Below, you can find when the last EF-3/F-3 tornado or higher occurred in your county. You may be surprised to learn that there are multiple counties within the TV5 viewing area that have never recorded a tornado of this strength. Some reports are more specific than others, with towns and details.

Last F-3/EF-3 In Each County:

Alcona: March 27,1991 (Glennie, F3)

Arenac: none on record.

Bay: June 12, 1984 (3 miles SW of Bay City, F3)

Clare: none on record.

Genesee: July 2, 1997 (Clio, F3)

Gladwin: March 30, 1976 (NE Gladwin County, F3)

Gratiot: none on record.

Huron: June 12, 1984 (2 miles S of Caseville, F3)

Iosco: March 27, 1991 (NW Iosco County, F3)

Isabella: none on record.

Lapeer: June 8, 1953 (NW of Columbiaville, F5)

Midland: none on record.

Ogemaw: March 27, 1991 (N of Lupton, F3)

Roscommon: none on record.

Saginaw: 1996 (Frankenmuth, F3)

Sanilac: September 2nd, 1984 (Black Creek area, SE of Speaker Township, F3)

Shiawassee: April 11, 1965 (N of Laingsburg to N of Bennington Township, F4)

Tuscola: none on record.