Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Day of the Great West Bloomfield Tornado

March 20, 1976. That was the day of the great West Bloomfield tornado.  It has been almost 40 years since it happened.  I really haven't thought about it too much in recent years, but I saw an article in the local paper last week that brought the memories back.  The local historical society is having an open house on Sunday, March 13 featuring photos from the disaster.

I lived in West Bloomfield when it happened and it was just a stroke of luck that my husband and I were not driving through the intersection where it hit that night.  On that fateful Saturday in West Bloomfield, my husband and I went to an early dinner at Victoria's Station in a nearby community.

My husband had recently returned home from a three-week business trip to Denver, Colorado.  I had gone out to see him while he was there.  One night in Denver we went to dinner and after dinner I had a drink that had alcohol, cocoa and coffee.  It was very good.  I don't remember what it was called.

After dinner at Victoria's Station I asked the waiter if they could make the drink that I'd had in Denver.  My husband was surprised because I almost never ordered an after dinner drink.  At best I would have a glass of wine with dinner. That drink may have saved our lives.

We left the restaurant and started to drive home. We drove up Middlebelt Rd. in West Bloomfield and were making a left turn onto Maple Road when we noticed that there were people in the street and a lot of commotion.  A little ways down the road we found we couldn't get through and people said a tornado had come through.  We saw a house with the roof missing.

We turned the car around and decided that we would try and come home on another one of the north-south roads. We went down to 14 mile and headed west. We tried to go north on Farmington Road which was still a dirt road and not something that we normally would drive on.  Halfway up the road there were power lines down and we had to turn around and go south again.

Meanwhile I'm getting concerned because our dog is at home alone and I'm wondering if our home is still OK. (This was before we had any children)  We went on further west to drive to one of the other north-south roads. I can't remember which one we ended up taking but we were able to get back to our neighborhood, which was not hit.

Had we left the restaurant and driven home right after dinner it's quite likely that we would been driving through the intersection of Orchard Lake and Maple Road when the tornado was coming through.  I think that's the only time in my life when the phrase 'I need a drink' paid off.

Several years ago a book about West Bloomfield history was written, ending with the tornado.  It includes the comments of a young doctor who was on duty that night at the local ER.  She just happens to be my personal physician. Next time I see her I'll have to ask her about her memories of that night.



9 comments:

  1. I had an encounter with a small F1 tornado years ago. If it had been larger I probably would not be here blogging. When I lived in Kansas I knew several people who were tornado survivors. Scary, scary things, especially when you survive because you weren't where you would have been. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

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    1. My husband and I lived through a tornado in western Michigan while staying at a family cottage. We had our three year old and one year old sons with us. Very scary.

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  2. Of all the natural disasters, a tornado scares the most out of me. I feel like it's the devil's finger stirring things up. It looks so scary and to know you just missed one and experienced another amazes me..

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    1. The one at the cottage was really scary. It picked up all the boats on the lake and deposited them in the lagoon. I don't have pictures because I gave them to my mother-in-law for the insurance.

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  3. Tornadoes are the worst! I had a similar experience about 10 years ago. Left our house to drive my son into our deer camp (approx. 10 miles). Weather seemed fine. Got him settled into camp, helped him start a fire. (About an hour). Headed home...about 5 miles out all I could smell was pine VERY strong. Then when I get about 3 miles from home I see why! A tornado had come through and torn up trees all around down the roads. Demolished some houses. Thankfully ours was untouched. But the thought of how close we or I come to being caught up in that, gLife & Faith in Caneyheadave me the shivers.

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    1. When the tornado hit us in western Michigan we saw a peach orchard that had been sheared. All that was left were stumps about one foot high. Glad you were safe.

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  4. I've lived through a few hurricanes, but at least you know they are coming. A tornado is extremely scary. I wouldn't live in Tornado Alley if you paid me. There have been a few in Ontario over the years, but luckily not too many although with the weather changing one never knows.

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    1. I've lived through two hurricanes. Each time I was on vacation. How lucky can one person be?

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  5. That goodness for that drink! It's especially dangerous to be driving when a tornado hits. And I'm glad you're neighborhood was untouched, but so sorry for those who lost their homes.

    I've never been in a tornado and hope I never am. Hurricanes are enough for me!

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