Remembering the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of 1965


WEST MICHIGAN – As we move closer and closer to spring, Palm Sunday marks a sad day in weather history that occurred in 1965. It was April 11-12 when 47 tornadoes tore through the Midwest, including several parts of Michigan. It is considered one of the top five tornado outbreaks in the United States. 271 people died and another 1,500 were injured in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, to name a few. On the old “fujita” tornado scale, there were 15 F1, 10 F2, 5 F3, and 17 F4 tornadoes.

In the heart of the FOX 17 viewing area, tornadoes touched down in Ottawa, Kent, Allegan, Barry, Kalamazoo and Montcalm counties. I spoke to several of our parishioners at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Comstock Park. Our church was destroyed by the tornado that passed through Comstock Park and Alpine Township. It hit the church, then rammed into and destroyed the Swan Inn Motel. Part of the original crucifix that was mounted in the church that day has survived and is still on display in the narthex. See image below.

walter nelson

Swan Inn, Six Mile and Alpine, Comstock Park

The historic photo attached to this story was taken by Paul Huffman (Elkhart, Indiana) of a double twister that tore through the Midway Trailer Park and killed 33 people. As a meteorologist, I could write hours about this event, but you can get more here from a link to a National Weather Service site that will provide many more details and storm surveys on this outbreak. You can also find more here with eyewitness accounts and local photos (great photos here).

Just a footnote…remember that Palm Sunday dates are floating around. These are NOT the same dates every year, so although the dates for this event were April 11, Palm Sunday this year is April 10.

We have several chances this week to see rain and thunderstorms. While we are not currently in a severe threat or SPC outlook situation, this may change, so stay tuned for future forecasts. Get the full West Michigan forecast on

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