Palm Sunday tornadoes affected the local area in 1920

On March 28, 1920, a deadly storm system dubbed “The Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak” spawned at least 37 tornadoes in the Midwestern states and some southern states, killing 153 people, including 12 from Michigan, and injuring at least 1,215 others on the roads. of destruction

By Palm Sunday afternoon, counties in west central Michigan experienced some tornado damage, though not as extensive or deadly as southern parts of the state. This tornado activity is believed to have originated from a confirmed F2 tornado west of Hart to Weare, Oceana County, which began as a waterspout over Lake Michigan. As it moved toward shore, it killed a man and destroyed a barn and a small house. Three people were injured.


His path in Oceana County landed for 10 miles and was 100 yards wide. Since weather and storm tracking technology barely existed in 1920, this tornado is seen to possibly continue for many more miles into Lake and Osceola counties.

The headline in the April 1, 1920 edition of the Osceola County Herald read: “Big Storm Sunday.”

“In points south and west of Michigan, Sunday’s severe storm, or young cyclone, caused considerable damage, the death loss in this state was 12, and property loss totaled $2,000,000. In the vicinity of Reed City minor damage was done but apparently nothing very serious.”

The article reported, and also mentioned, that William Thiel had his silo blown up north of town, and Boney Weckerman had a large window blown out.

The article then urged readers to purchase “cyclone insurance.”

“The insurance men in this community do well to warn people in this neighborhood to have cyclone insurance. On Sunday, this section escaped the worst of the storm, but at another time local people could be hit hard. Readers are asked to read the insurance announcement in this issue of the Herald.”

More damage was reported in Lake County, particularly in Cherry Valley Township’s Nirvana along US 10 and pointing north, west toward Ungers, which was near Nelson Road. An article in the Nirvana news column in the Osceola County Herald, April 8, 1920, reported:

“Most of the road between Ungers and Nirvana was impassable after the storm Sunday afternoon caused trees to fall on the road. Some uprooted, some broken. Andrew and Clarence Loree cleared the road Monday.” .

Also in that column, readers learned that several neighbors came to George Shinn’s house to help repair his barn, which was badly crooked and had one end crushed. His property was reported to be the worst in the neighborhood. The sheds, the chicken coop, the barns were blown up and almost all the boards in a lumber pile were carried across the road to their neighbor’s barnyard.

Another storm damage report on Nirvana was relayed to readers:

“Mr. Skornock, who lives on a farm north of Nirvana, reports a rather strange experience he had during Sunday’s storm. He was in a chicken coop feeding chickens, he felt the building give way, so he bent down and the building he was picked up. and the wind blew him away, leaving him unhurt, but very frightened.”

Near Bitely, damage was also reported in the April 8, 1920 edition of the Osceola County Herald.

“In the recent wind storm, Robert Elliott suffered a major loss on his farm near Bitely, south of Baldwin. The house, two barns, and the garage were flattened. Mrs. Elliott’s brother, Ed. Chrysler, suffered loss of two barns, a silo and a portion of his house The chicken coop and 80 chickens were scattered by the wind, only 16 of the birds were found after the storm Mr. Chrysler had some cyclone insurance, but the Mr. Elliott had none.”

Of the confirmed tornadoes in the area, an F2 was reported in Free Soil, Mason County, touching down briefly, destroying a barn and protecting a home. His road was 7 miles long and 150 yards wide.

Other parts of the state did not fare as well. An F4 tornado north of Fenton in Genesee and Oakland counties created a catastrophe along its path 10 miles long and 200 yards. This was the third and final F4 reported in the state that day, and it swept homes several hundred feet off their foundations, causing four deaths, including one of the first car/tornado fatalities.

The Oxford Leader, dated April 2, 1920, tells of the deaths.

“During the terrible storm on Sunday night, Mrs. Nellie G. Boughner, of Birmingham, was killed instantly at Fenton, when the car she was traveling in skidded off the road and turned into a turtle. Mrs. Brush Nash, of Fenton; Mrs. James Farley and Holly’s 3-year-old daughter, Vera, who had taken shelter at the Nash home, were also killed when the storm hit the house.”

Other confirmed tornadoes in the state included an F3 in Cass County; an F2 in Kalamazoo County; an F2 southwest of Kalamazoo; an F4 in Barry and Eaton counties that caused four deaths and destroyed 35 farms in the Maple Grove area; an F3 south of Orangeville northeast of Hastings; and F2 in Shiawassee County; an F2 west of Saginaw; an F2 southeast of Lansing; and an F3 south from Miliken to St. Johns, causing one fatality as well as damage to the St. Johns business district.

A statement in the Clare Sentinel article for April 1, 1920, mentioning some damage to the farm from the storm, sums up what many must have felt in areas not badly affected by the storm:

“Overall we escaped lightly compared to some sections.”

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