April 12th was a day that should of never produced the storms it did, but with the strength of the warm front draped across Lower Michigan, along with the large temperate gradient and tiny amount of instability, it did. Two severe storms fired on the west side of the state producing small bow echo cells. One traveled from north of Grand Rapids to roughly Ithaca before fizzling out, followed by a much more dominant cell that produced numerous reports of damage across much of lower Michigan.
The ingredients for severe weather were quite lacking if you simply looked at some of the basic ingredients. With a step outside or quick glance at the thermometer with temps in the upper 40’s, it looked pretty dismal north of M-21. The warm front resided somewhere between M-21 and M-46, with a large temperature gradient from the upper 30’s near Houghton Lake and Mio, to mid 40’s in the Tri-Cities, to almost 60 south of Lansing. A band of rain with some unorganized cells began to move from Wisconsin across Lake Michigan, and despite the ice still cover much of the lakes, storms became more organized and moved near Muskegon.
At this point I was still full of doubt on whether it would even be worth moving south to see if things picked up. As the first cell moved closer, it went severe warned so I began the trip west. I ended up between Alma and Ithaca to the west for the first cell, which was very elevated but a welcomed sight after the long, hard winter!
While watching the initial cell fizzle out and drop some pea size hail on me, I was watching radar back to the west and watching the dominant cell get larger and larger. I jumped out of the rain and headed south into Clinton County, just to take the brunt of was coming. I wasn’t expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised with what was coming for me. I positioned just south of St. Johns in a shopping district watching the cell gain strength before finally heading west out in to farmland. Little did I know this would be one of the best boring events I’ve had chasing.
Damage occurred over much of central and south eastern Michigan. In addition to the damage shown in the video, high tension power lines were knocked down covering I-75 near Grand Blanc, closing the interstate down for almost two full days. Extensive tree and structure damage also hit many areas from Lake Orion and to the southeast.
Some footage in the above video was used on NBC Nightly News on April 13th, 2014.