2015 tornadoes: a look back - WNEM TV 5

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2015 tornadoes: a look back

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Birch Run-Millington Tornado - June 22, 2015 Birch Run-Millington Tornado - June 22, 2015
Sanilac County Tornado - June 22, 2015 Sanilac County Tornado - June 22, 2015

It was a night that had far-reaching impacts across the state, and one that took a very dangerous turn locally. Two years ago today, Mid-Michigan was struck by a pair of tornadoes, part of a large-scale severe weather outbreak that spawned 5 total twisters in the state. No lives were lost in the storms that day, but they left a slew of damage in their wake.

A Nasty Start to Summer

It was a season that wasted no time, getting off to a running start on the first full day of summer on June 22. Forecasts had been pointing to the likelihood of an active afternoon for several days by that point, and things were primed and ready for what would wind up as the most active day of the summer.

An initial round of thunderstorms barreled across Michigan between Noon and 4:00 PM, supported by a warm front lifting northeastward through the region. A severe thunderstorm watch was issued for the entirety of southern Michigan around 12:30 PM as the swath began to come inland from Lake Michigan.

While these storms did produce the day's first tornado in the town of Portland in addition to a handful of severe thunderstorm warnings, they would deliver little more than a few heavy downpours here in our area. With the storms weakening as they encountered cooler air near Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron, the watch was canceled around 4:00 PM.

Source: National Weather Service, Detroit/Pontiac, Michigan

The Main Event

The lackluster performance of the initial wave of thunderstorms may have lulled some folks into a false sense of security. Temperatures had cooled a bit, followed by some sunshine breaking through the clouds early in the evening. With the warm front now sitting northeast of the region, our atmosphere received a shot in the arm and was primed to fire off a brand new round of storms. These storms would be far nastier than their predecessors.

The trigger was pulled shortly after 7:00 PM. New, individual thunderstorms began to fire quickly across central portions of the Lower Peninsula, anywhere from Gladwin to Grand Rapids. By 9:00 PM, a full-fledged line of severe thunderstorms, some of them supercells, had broken out from Huron County to the Tri-Cities.

As the storms passed southeast of Saginaw, things really took a turn for the worse. A tornado warning was issued for southeastern Saginaw and southern Tuscola Counties at 9:45 PM, with reports quickly confirming a tornado on the ground. The EF-2 tornado touched down in Birch Run, and stayed on the ground for 11.4 miles into the Millington area. It carved a path 250 yards wide and damaged several RVs and homes, resulting in a pair of injuries.

A second tornado warning came in at 10:30 PM, this time for Sanilac County. Also confirmed on the ground by spotters, this tornado tore a 20-mile path through northern Sanilac County between Decker and Deckerville, causing extensive damage to a dairy farm among others. Rated as an EF-1, the tornado’s peak winds were estimated at 95 mph.

A third tornado warning was later issued in Shiawassee County as brief rotation was detected on radar. The warning was quickly downgraded, and no tornado was found to have occurred. The line of severe thunderstorms would continue on through the Flint area, and cross south of I-69 after 1:00 AM. The tornado watch then expired at 3:00 AM.

Source: National Weather Service, Detroit/Pontiac, Michigan

Thunderstorms are in the forecast today and tomorrow here in Mid-Michigan. Keep track of their every move with our First Warn 5 Interactive Radar!

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