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Certainly, the technology for detecting severe thunderstorms and tornadoes has improved. The communications systems in place have also improved over the past 50 years as well. In fact, in 1953 modern tornado watches and warnings were not even parts of the National Weather Service's operations. At that time, the National Weather Service issued Severe Weather Bulletins, highlighting the threat of Severe Thunderstorms and Tornadoes. Finally, as a whole the public is much more aware of the threats of severe weather and the necessary actions to take when severe weather threatens. We can directly see the influences of these advancements by comparing the 1953 Beecher Tornado and the May 3, 1999 Moore and Oklahoma City Tornado. Both of these tornadoes were long track violent tornadoes, and both rated as F5 on the Fujita damage scale.

From U.S. Census Bureau, the population density of 1950 Beecher, 2000 Moore Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City Oklahoma are nearly the same, about 2000 residents per square mile. Yet in 1953, 113 people died in a 4 mile stretch of the Beecher Tornado's path. Compare that to the 1999 Oklahoma tornado were 23 people died on its 17 mile track through suburban Oklahoma City. Given the advancement in technology and the more weather savvy citizenry, we might only expect about 10% the amount of casualties today, compared to 50 years ago. Of course the National Weather Service and all emergency service organizations continue to work to further reduce the affects of severe weather. It is still up to every person to make sure that their home, school or place of business has an effective severe weather plan.

Example of a 27 mile tornado track through metro Detroit.
Is the state of Michigan prepared for such a damaging tornado event in 2003? The state has been hit with violent tornadoes before, and will always have the potential for another one. What if a violent tornado, like the Flint-Beecher Tornado, moved through modern metro Detroit? A 27 mile long path from the intersection of Interstate 275 and 6 Mile Road to the intersection of Gratiot Avenue and 12 Mile Road, would hit all three counties of metro Detroit (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb). If this tornado had a width of 800 yards, it would affect over 22,000 housing units and 53,000 people directly. Since most tornadoes occur in the afternoon and evening, we must consider the amount of people that would be on the area highways. This projected tornado path would cross Interstates 275, 75, and 696, the Lodge and Southfield freeways, Telegraph Road, Grand River Avenue, 8 Mile Road, Woodward Avenue, and Van Dyke Avenue. There could be between 10,000 and 20,000 commuters on area roads through the projected path. Damages from such a tornado would most likely approach $1 billion, and unfortunately, some deaths and injuries even with the best Tornado Warning. The 50th anniversary of the Flint-Beecher tornado offers the entire state an opportunity to take the time to develop and review your severe weather safety plan for your home, school and business.

Example of a 27 mile tornado track through metro Detroit.