Yesterday, Michigan joined Oklahoma in having multiple severe tornadoes this week after two tornadoes touched down in Portage, dealing significant damage to a FedEx building and has left 25,000 people without power.


The storms in Michigan were so bad that the Weather Service declared a tornado emergency, the first time such a declaration was made in Michigan. But what is a tornado emergency, and how is it different from a tornado warning?


READ MORE: Michigan Had A Red Flag Warning - Here's What To Know


What is a Tornado Emergency?

If you've never heard of a tornado emergency, don't feel bad. A tornado emergency is a very rare event, with the first being made in 1999 after a broadcaster invented the term on the fly after they believed a "Tornado Warning" wasn't a large enough warning to indicate the danger of an incoming.


It was an unofficial term sparingly used until 2008 when it was officially recognized. There are a few parameters that must be met in order for a Tornado Emergency to be declared, per the National Weather Service:

  1. Severe threat to human life is imminent or ongoing
  2. Catastrophic damage is imminent or ongoing
  3. Reliable sources confirm tornado (either a or b)
    1. Visual
    2. Radar imagery strongly suggests the existence of a damaging tornado (a debris ball signature, for example)


Tornado, lightning, farmland


Why did Michigan have a Tornado Emergency?

According to The Weather Channel, the Emergency was declared due to multiple tornadoes on the ground, the damage the tornadoes were causing, and the reported injuries sustained in a mobile home park. Meteorologist Jonathan Belles claims "several supercells" were reported, with nine reports of tornadoes being made. This number is prone to change once the damage is assessed.


Considering Michigan usually gets three tornadoes in May and just last night we potentially had nine, it shows the severity of the storm we had yesterday and why a rare declaration like the Tornado Emergency was made. Thankfully, no fatalities have been reported.


2024 Michigan County By County Tornado Risk Projections

Roof Gnome, using FEMA data and analyzing nearly 950 counties throughout the United States at moderate to high risk for tornados, was able to rank 34 Michigan counties for storm risks in 2024 and projected financial impact. Here's a county-by-county look at Michigan's Tornano Vulnerability.

Gallery Credit: Scott Clow

The Ten Most Tornado-Prone Counties in America

When it comes to the topic of tornadoes, Oklahoma is universally known around the world for producing some of the biggest, including the last F6 ever measured... but it'd probably surprise most Okies that the Sooner State doesn't even crack the top five of the most tornado-prone counties in America.

Gallery Credit: Kelso

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