June 8 is what Karl Bohnak calls “Super-Killer Tornado Day.” Three strong, devastating tornadoes hit the Midwest on this date, including one in Michigan.
A tornado, while a small-scale weather event, can develop into the most violent storm on Earth. Fortunately, Upper Michigan rarely has tornadoes, much less destructive ones.
Downstate, it’s a different story. Seventy years ago, Beecher, a north suburb of Flint, was hit by a huge, destructive twister, The tornado struck at about 8:30 in the event of June 8, 1953 while most residents were at home. A total of 340 homes were destroyed, with 822 injured and 116 killed. It was the last tornado to kill more than 100 people until the Joplin, Missouri tornado on May 22, 2011.
There was an old legend that Burnett’s Mound on the southwest side of Topeka, Kansas would protect the city from a tornado. A tornado developed during the evening of June 8, 1966 southwest of the city. It topped the mound and ripped through the center of Topeka, killing 17 people and injuring 500. There was an eight-block area of total destruction in the heart of the city.
Finally, there are no photos of the tornado that struck Barneveld, a village about 25 miles west of Madison, Wisconsin on June 8, 1984. That’s because the tornado struck just before 1 a.m. while the village was asleep. The quarter-mile wide twister, with winds estimated up to 300 miles per hour, destroyed 90% of the village along with 17 to 18 businesses and 93 homes. Nine people were killed and some 200 were injured.