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Posted on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 7 a.m.

Tornado touchdowns reported near Saline, Milan; storms dump 2-4 inches of rain on Ann Arbor area

By Amalie Nash


This photo was taken in south Ann Arbor and shows the lightning activity prevalent during tonight's storms.

Photo courtesy of Kara A. Makara

Tornado touchdowns were reported near Saline and Milan Wednesday night as a severe thunderstorm moved through Washtenaw County, causing wind gusts up to 72 mph and dumping 2-4 inches of rain.

No significant damage was reported as a result of the storms, but downed trees on roadways and downed power lines kept emergency crews busy late into the night.

At 9:56 p.m., a trained weather spotter reported a touchdown from a tornado at the intersection of Saline-Milan Road and Jewell Road in York Township.

Sheriff's deputies responded to the area and didn’t find evidence of a touchdown. But Marc Breckenridge, director of the county's Emergency Operations Center, cautioned that in a rural area, it could be hard to see evidence at night - especially since it was believed to have touched down in a field. He said officials will go back on Thursday morning to double check.


University of Michigan aerospace engineering student Eric Eckstein captured this image under the southwest entryway to the Duderstadt Center on U-M's North Campus just after midnight.

Photo courtesy of Eric Eckstein

Television reports said several people in the area saw the tornado near their homes.

A few minutes later, at 10:08 p.m., another weather spotter reported a 72-mile-per-hour wind gust at Whittaker and Willis roads in Augusta Township. At 10:14 p.m., another trained weather spotter reported a tornado between Milan and Maybee.

Breckenridge said officials have heard several reports of downed power lines and trees, but, as of 11 p.m., no structural damage had been reported.

“Still it’s night, and not everyone will notice whether or not their house had damage until the morning,” he said.

Firefighters responded to a reported house fire on M-52 outside Chelsea at 11:53 p.m., and several other local departments were called for assistance. It wasn't immediately clear whether the fire was related to the storms.

Police and fire officials in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Pittsfield Township said they had received multiple calls of downed trees, but no reports of serious damage.

Saline Fire Chief Craig Hoeft said a house in Saline was struck by lightning, but the house did not catch fire. A tree fell on a house in Saline Township late Wednesday, but no one was injured, Hoeft said.

Meteorologist Dave Gurney of the National Weather Service's White Lake Township office said the storms were winding down and heading southeast of Monroe County at 11:40 p.m.

The National Weather Service will send crews to Washtenaw County on Thursday to verify whether the sightings were tornadoes or straight-line winds, Gurney said.

"Looking at the radar, there's a good chance of at least one tornado," he said. "The team will look at any damage patterns, figure out how wide the path was and how long it may have been on the ground."

The possible tornadoes come just two and a half weeks after a tornado touched down in Dundee, causing significant damage there. And on Friday night, severe storms were blamed for a fatal car crash and at least three fires.

The areas hardest hit by Wednesday's storms were Washtenaw, Lenawee and Monroe counties, officials said.

The intense lightning that lasted for several minutes - most active south of Ann Arbor - was the result of a solid line of several storms that lasted longer than usual, Gurney said.

The storm dumped 2 to 4 inches in some areas, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a flood advisory for Washtenaw County. Runoff from excessive rain was expected to cause minor flooding in Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Manchester, Saline, Ypsilanti, Dixboro and Willis.

The advisory had expired by Thursday morning, and National Weather Service officials said they did not receive reports of any significant flooding overnight.

The tornado warning prompted the cancellation of Top of the Park, and the Ann Arbor school board, meeting in the downtown district library, took shelter in the basement.

DTE spokesman John Austerberry said about 700 customers remained without power in Washtenaw County this morning, and about 4,000 total were without power in southeast Michigan. He said DTE hopes to have everyone's power restored today.

Think that's it on the storm front for a while? Think again.

Gurney said there's the potential for more severe thunderstorms on Saturday and Sunday.

"It's been a pretty busy last six weeks or so," he said.


Lightning lights up the skies in west Ann Arbor.

Melanie Maxwell |


Tonight's storms have been filled with lightning.

Melanie Maxwell |'s David Jesse and Cindy Heflin contributed to this report.


Eric Eckstein

Fri, Jun 25, 2010 : 10:24 a.m.

There are quite a few methods, ranging from using special lightning-sensitive triggers to just releasing the shutter when you see the flash. That one photo in this article shot on North Campus was done by just taking several long-exposure shots back to back until some lightning came along. A tripod is necessary in most cases, and a shutter delay helps too by letting vibrations in the tripod settle down before the shutter is opened. Best to use manual everything, as the camera's sensors won't be able to react in time to set exposure levels, not to mention the fact that trying to autofocus on a dark sky is unreliable at best.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 7:58 p.m.

Actually, you don't have to have a ham radio. The training program is much larger than it was even just a few years ago. They have several classes to accommodate more people, and started a two year cycle so you don't have to go every year, and more people can be trained. You get a card with the phone number to the local Emergency Operations Center, and a number to call NOAA directly. I heard several reports that night from trained weather spotters who had phoned in to the Emergency Operations Center, which were then relayed to the people on the amateur radio skywarn net.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 4:46 p.m.

@treetowntenor: Ahh yes, you are right, my memory was wrong. The new policy applies to the use of the sirens, not the actual NOAA tornado warnings. So, we are going to hear the sirens a lot more than we did in the past. I for one could do without that, but, C'est la vie. On another subject... I showed up for the Skywarn training one time. I did not want to be an acutal spotter as I have no ham radio. But I thought I would learn something. However, they would not let me in. Maybe space was limited.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 2:29 p.m.

@daytona084: Straight-line winds will still result in a severe thunderstorm warning, as long as there is no rotation in the storm. However, the warning sirens will now sound for winds > 70 mph and local / national emergencies, as well as tornadoes. So they're not "tornado sirens" any more, like they were before. If you hear the sirens, get indoors and turn on the TV or radio to find out what's going on. If you're already indoors, don't depend on hearing the sirens. Get a weather radio, which will also broadcast the non-weather emergencies. Dont' believe the old tornado myths, including the geography ones. See the web page linked by Tom Teague.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 1:45 p.m.

It certainly was a beautiful light show in Ypsi last night. We also felt relatively safe with the constant updates from Comcast and Channel 4. Of course, Law & Order became Law & Order Interruptus... County Kate makes a great point and I, for one, appreciate the warnings.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 1:31 p.m.

Now just imagine if the sirens did not sound in A2 and a tornado did strike inflicting property damage and injury. Oh my, it would Mayor H's BP/Katrina ten fold by the time the granola munchers are done with him!


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 1:13 p.m.

Aries Woman, at least you had something on your screen! I just had DISH installed (like 2 weeks ago) and for the second time the "signal was lost" for the local channels, and the weather channel before it even started raining. I am less that impressed with them.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 1:04 p.m.

@ Tom Teague, luck? Huh, no, I have lived here over 30 years and we've never had a direct hit by a tornado. It is all about geography and has nothing to do with luck. I think my 30 year study qualifies.

sun runner

Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 11:46 a.m.

Sorry, but this is a lame report. Something MAJOR happened north of Chelsea between Chelsea and Stockbridge, and not a single mention? From the article: "Firefighters responded to a reported house fire on M-52 outside Chelsea at 11:53 p.m., and several other local departments were called for assistance. It wasn't immediately clear whether the fire was related to the storms."

News Watcher

Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 10:08 a.m.

Sorry, but this is a lame report. Something MAJOR happened north of Chelsea between Chelsea and Stockbridge, and not a single mention? We were monitoring the police and emergency bands during the tornado warning and the watch afterwards, and emergency vehicles were dispatched from multiple towns and cities to converge on the 15000 block of North M-52. Reports on the radio noted that they'd run out of water, with one report from Green Lake Water calling out to M-52 Command asking if their assistance was needed. What happened there? And why isn't it reported? More than two dozen emergency vehicles were there, from our count!


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 9:50 a.m.

NUXI: Well, Yellowstone is bulging....


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 9:32 a.m.

I live in York Township, about 4 miles (as crow flies) from the tornado "touchdown" area at Jewell & Saline-Milan roads. I had water damage (ceiling) in my new addition put on two summers ago. Not sure how the water got in as there is no visible point of entry. Maybe the combination of high winds and rain. A tornado went behind my house during that 1965 Palm Sunday storm. Flattened my grandparents barn and took the roof off the milking barn (while Grandma was inside!). Tree fell on their house, too. Grandma was unharmed and is still kicking at 92!

Tom Teague

Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 9:31 a.m.

I keep seeing references to how Ann Arbor is tornado-resistant based on our geography. That notion shouldn't figure into your decision to take shelter when a tornado warning is issued; it's more likely that Ann Arbor has just been lucky all these years. Tornado formation isn't well understood. Some geography may disrupt the formation of some types of tornadoes, but violent tornadoes have crossed ridges, rivers, and lakes and kept right on sowing destruction. This site provides some information on common tornado myths:


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 9:24 a.m.

One more thing, anyone can become an official SKYWARN weather spotter. Washtenaw County offers training in the spring. With that, your reports will be used in part for determining whether or not a warning should be issued. Also, your reports will be used to help correlate between what is seen on radar with what is seen on the ground, in order to improve weather radar prediction and interpretation. Here is a link to the SKYWARN National Weather Service page:

David Cahill

Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 9:23 a.m.

We got just an inch of rain here on Broadway.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 9:14 a.m.

I've never heard of a tornado warning issued for straight line winds. They will issue a severe thunderstorm warning for a storm producing straight line winds in excess of 58mph.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 8:58 a.m.

Thanks Dalex64 and vwp11 for the information about tornado warnings. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe I heard a recent change (just this season) that allows a tornado warning to be issued even for very high (not sure of the exact velocity) straight line winds. If that is correct, I think we will have way too many warnings and people will start to ignore them. "Severe thunderstorm warnings" are for straight line winds / lightning / hail, etc., "Tornado Watch" is for "favorable conditions" but "Tornado Warnings" should be reserved for actual tornadoes.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 8:56 a.m.

Geographically speaking, most of A2 is in a valley which means that most severe funnel clouds or storms "jump" over us and land in Ypsilanti township. The early settlers were smart and as long as we keep the trees (old farm house strategy, planting tees on the east side of the house to slow winds) we'll be fine. @ Marshall Applewhite, if this weather is not exciting enough for you, move to one of the plane states. :)


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 8:21 a.m.

Oh, and I meant to say these are some spectacular pictures accompanying this story. Kudos to the photographers. Ypsilanti was, indeed, strobe-lit last night.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 8:19 a.m.

I was in the Palm Sunday tornadoes of 1965 - before Doppler radar. We had no warning at all as 14 tornadoes ripped through Hillsdale County. Eleven people died, three of them on my dad's rural mail route. Even though I was a kid, I will remember the devastation until I die. Everyone should heed the warnings and be grateful we get warnings now. Marshall, be careful what you wish for.

PE #1

Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 8:18 a.m.

Wow this storm had some weird effects on me I lost both my memory and my sanity in the same 10 minute period. maybe it was the effect of the earlier earthquake, or it was the tornado. Wow. And neither one really hit Ann Arbor isn't that odd?


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 8:13 a.m.

I was driving back from Pine Knob last night at around 1100pm and talk about some cool lightening. 'Bout the coolest I have seen in my life. Glad no one was hurt in the tornados/high winds.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 8 a.m.

That was an incredible display of lightning last night. Where I am in Lodi Township, the wind gusts weren't that bad. Plus I doubt that we got 2 inches of rain where we are. I think the worst of this storm passed more through the Saline area and further south - which seems to be consistent with what has been reported.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 7:21 a.m.

Thank you Dalex64. I'm a trained spotter and what you say is spot on. By the time a physical sighting report is made, confirmed, and transmitted, people could be in big trouble. This is why the NWS uses some serious tools to see inside the storms... and it's much more than we see on the basic radar on TV. The practice of warning has also changed in the past couple years. Warnings used to be by county and a tornado could be in Ypsilanti, but all cities (incl those behind the storm) were told to take cover. Then nothing happened to them and they get complacent. Now the warnings are storm-direction specific and if they tell you your area has a tornado warning, it's much more targeted to mean YOU. I'm also from the Dundee-Milan area and would thank people not to take lightly what these storms can do. People and businesses there have lost a lot and they barely had a warning that night. It could have been much worse. If you wish to have high winds, funnels, and tornadoes visit you, be careful what you wish. Your legacy could be a Darwin award.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 6:56 a.m.

jns131..Well said, especially the Kwame reference!!!


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 6:37 a.m.

Correction, Saline-Milan/Jewel Rd.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 6:34 a.m.

Regarding tornado warnings when no tornado has been sighted, A tornado warning is now issued when Doppler radar indicates a storm with strong rotation. Basically, it is a potential tornado in the clouds that hasn't dropped to the ground. Last night, the storm that produced the tornado that may have touched down near the intersection of Saline-Milan and Willow road had been tracked and had tornado warnings issued for it when the storm was still in Jackson county. So, the warning is issued when a storm might drop a tornado at any time. Everyone had more time to take cover. A lot of NWS trained weather spotters had their eyes on the sky. The people near Saline-Milan/Willow road, under the old system, would have had 0 warning of a tornado by waiting for a funnel cloud to be spotted before a warning was issued. Same thing for that tornado that did all that damage in Dundee, and the ones in Ohio. Those warnings were issued based on radar, instead of waiting for a tornado to be on the ground. As long as no one gets complacent about taking cover first, and finding out exactly where the potential tornado is second, people will be safer.


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 6:26 a.m.

This was a day to remember. An earthquake, a tornado and Kwame getting 400 years! O MY!!! What can we expect next?


Thu, Jun 24, 2010 : 2:40 a.m.

I live in Saline but I wasn't near the tornado touch down. I did hear the sirens but I heard the Milan-Dundee sirens when the Dundee tornado hit so I thought it was just nothing. I had a couple of brown outs but nothing other than major thunderstorms. Some were a bit scary and loud but nothing too bad. Some of my neighbors even had their garage doors open so I knew it wasn't that bad. The Saline-Milan and Jewel Road tornado touch down is actually in the middle of Saline and Milan. I think Milan had it the worst though; even parts in Ann Arbor. Luckily we have our power but I know of a lot of people who do not. Thanks A2 for reporting this!

Marshall Applewhite

Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 11:02 p.m.

After a non-event earthquake and a non-event thunderstorm, I'm shocked that I wasn't swept away by the mass hysteria today!

Mom in Town

Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 10:51 p.m.

Yeah, those aliens... no respect. :)


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 10:39 p.m.

Mom in Town, please tell the aliens to hold off on their takeover until after I'm done watching this episode of Top Chef. Thanks!

Mom in Town

Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 10:31 p.m.

@arborlib and Edward... could be a transformer issue, could be an alien invasion... it's been one of those days! HAHA! Earthquake, tornado, church bells ringing in Saline, and a weird blue green flash... just sayin... :)


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 10:08 p.m.

Edward, something with a transformer issue? We lost power here in Scio Township for about 30 seconds at 10:50pm.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 10:07 p.m.

Tornado Watches do still mean "conditions are favorable." Much of forecasting is obviously driven by weather radar now so Tornado Warnings will be issued when radar data shows a "hook echo" that's indicative of a tornado taking shape or the very strong possibility of one being turned out by the storm. Watches do not always turn into warnings - it may feel that way with this recent weather.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 9:45 p.m.

First an earthquake, then a tornado, whats next? I bet its a volcano, any takers?


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 9:42 p.m.

billbo - That's actually what I posted on Facebook haha "I think there is a strobe light over Ypsilanti"


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 9:36 p.m.

Tornado warning for SE Washtenaw County cancelled per Weather Channel.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 9:32 p.m.

It's been CRAZY in downtown Ypsi. Looks like somebody turned a strobe-light on in the sky!

L. C. Burgundy

Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 9:22 p.m.

... A Tornado Warning remains in effect for northern Monroe... southern Wayne and southeastern Washtenaw counties until 1100 PM EDT... At 1014 PM EDT... trained weather spotters reported a tornado. This tornado was located between Milan and Maybee... moving east at 45 mph.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 9:15 p.m.

Chuck just confirmed a touchdown in Saline.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 9:15 p.m.

Perhaps, Marshall, you need to relocate to Dundee or Toledo area for your bit of thrill but really a little insensitive of you given people have lost their lives and homes so recently in these storms.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 9:12 p.m.

burgundy - I'm sure they'll respond when called, but who wants them to risk their lives just sitting in a truck or wherever they are that they need shelter from waiting in the middle of this? They're people too!


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 9:12 p.m.

the firefighters won't be able to save anyone if they don't take care of themselves first.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 9:09 p.m.

Shouldn't the firefighters be "on guard" - ready to help those in need?

Marshall Applewhite

Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 9:04 p.m.

Why do all of the really good storms seem to miss downtown Ann Arbor? I want 70mph winds and funnel clouds! This one is a real letdown.

David Jesse

Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:50 p.m.

just extended the warning until 10:45 p.m. for southern Washtenaw County. Saline confirmed on scanner traffic that they were sounding the sirens. Pittsfield Township firefighters were advised to seek shelter.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:50 p.m.

I love thunderstorms!


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:46 p.m.

recordhound, it seems they changed something recently...During night time hours, they issue the warning when conditions are very favorable as a precaution because it can be hard to spot a tornado in the dark. I can imagine "they" want people to be safer and go to the basement because nobody really knows if there's a tornado out there in the dark. Hopefully they can still notify us quickly if one is spotted. It sounds horrible out there.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:37 p.m.

Good point, Malorie. When I was a kid in Wisconsin, there was just one time that I remember that there was a tornado in the night. It took out an entire town.,_Wisconsin_tornado_outbreak


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:34 p.m.

seriously, since when did "watches" automatically become "warnings?" Didn't a warning used to indicate an actual sighting?

Susan Montgomery

Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:33 p.m.

A reminder of the police scanner website Ed Vielmetti mentioned the other day:


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

During night time hours, they often issue the warning when conditions are very favorable as a precaution because it can be hard to spot a tornado in the dark.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:19 p.m.

Amazing weather this season, that is for sure. Everyone stay safe and keep everyone close.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:15 p.m.

I know they're dangerous and crazy, but I miss these storms! I have many fond memories of watching the havoc above ground through the small windows at the top of the basement.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:14 p.m.

According to, "A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted by spotters or indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area." The actual warning doesn't mention any of this. I feel like I'm getting all psyched out for nothing.


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:11 p.m.

I sort of miss the days when the sirens went off and/or a warning was issued only when there was a tornado, when the watches were for "conditions are favorable."

Drew Montag

Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:08 p.m.

Could we have an earthquake and a tornado in the same 8-hour period?


Wed, Jun 23, 2010 : 8:06 p.m.

Here we go again. This is getting rather old. Everyone stay safe.