Oakland County Twisters: A Historical Guide

A large two-story home with large, moving clouds above it. The sky is darkening and it appears that bad weather is on its way.

If you’re fascinated by weather, you’ll love our Tornadoes Map, created with data from local weather geek Matt Malone by Oakland County’s award-winning GIS team. It shows a limited history of the tornado paths and touchdown points, and their EF scale ratings, from 1953 – 2015. Go back to July of 1957, and view the path of an EF4 tornado that traveled 29.9 miles, almost all the way across the southern portion of Oakland County. In 1998, a funnel was spotted after having touched down near Otter Road and Sylvan Lake. It lifted without causing any damage – what a relief! Click on the map to learn more and get details on twisters that touched down here in the past.

A screenshot of a GIS Map of tornado paths and starting/touchdown points in Oakland County, Michigan ca. 1953-2015. Data provided by NOAA, OCIT, and Matt Malone of Farmington Hills GIS.

Do you know what to do in the event of a tornado? People are often confused by the terms: watch and warning. Stay prepared and learn the differences between a watch and a warning, and understand what steps you should take to stay protected.

  • Tornado Watch
    Issued when tornadoes and other kinds of severe weather are possible in the next several hours. It does not mean tornadoes are imminent, just that you need to be alert and prepared to go to a safe shelter if a warning is issued or tornadoes form.
  • Tornado Warning
    Issued when a tornado has been spotted or when Doppler radar shows a rotating thunderstorm that could spawn a tornado. When a tornado warning is issued for your location, take immediate shelter. Generally, this means moving to the lowest floor of a house or building and putting as many walls between you and the tornado as possible, ideally in a tornado shelter or basement.
  • PDS Tornado Watch
    Particularly Dangerous Situation Watches are reserved for situations where SPC forecasters believe the threat for multiple, long-track, intense tornadoes is unusually high, resulting in derived tornado watch probabilities of significant tornadoes in excess of 80%.

Skywarn Training and OakAlert Emergency Notifications

Did you know? A thunderstorm is needed for a tornado to develop. Thunderstorms happen when moisture is lifted into an unstable atmosphere. If you want to learn more about emerging weather patterns and how to predict them, you may be interested in becoming a SkyWarn Spotter for the National Weather Service.

Skywarn training sessions are held to train individuals on how to accurately observe
such weather phenomena as floods, hail, wind and its associated damage, cloud features that lead to tornadoes, and those cloud features that do not lead to tornadoes. The class covers what information to report and how to report it. Basic severe weather safety is also covered. Classes are FREE and last 1.5 hours. Visit the Oakland County Homeland Security website for more details on this life saving program that’s offered every spring.

While we’re on the topic of severe weather, be sure you’ve signed up for OakAlert, Oakland County’s Emergency Notification System. Choose to be notified via text or email in the event of emergencies, disasters, or hazardous situations that would require immediate action. Learn more and sign up on our website.

For more current tornado information, visit the NOAA website and stay up to date with weather alerts from the National Weather Service.

Looking for more county news and information? Visit our website or follow along with us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram using #OaklandCounty. 

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