SPC Stats

Path length: 6.6 miles

Width:  100 yards

Fatalities:  3

Injuries:  116

Rating:  F4

County:  Genesee

Per the Storm Prediction Center, 13 tornadoes occurred on May 12, 1956.  10 of the 13 were in the state of Michigan.  There were two later rated F4.  One in Wayne County and the second, in Genesee County and the Flint area, the subject of this summary.

The tornado developed in the southeast part of the city around 6:25pm ET just west of where the present-day I-475 runs adjacent to Thread Lake.  It dissipated northwest of Atlas.

Per the Climatological Data National Summary, 71 homes, 5 commercial buildings and 71 other structures were destroyed.  285 homes and 14 commercial buildings were damaged.  A television station antenna was toppled.  Some witnesses reported 2 or 3 funnels visible at time of the storm.  

From a summary of the event from the NWS Detroit:  “One couple, caught outdoors, found shelter in a ditch. Though the couple suffered severe cuts, they survived. Many others sought shelter in basements. Twenty-two neighbors crowded into one basement, and in another basement, though the furnace was pulled from one corner to the other, the occupants survived. “Thank God for basements,” was the comment of one family on Gilmartin Street in the aftermath of the tornado, whose home had its roof torn off and a 4 X 6 piece of wood driven through the wall. In addition, another family, in their car as the tornado and its debris approached, were able to get inside a store and move to the rear of the structure. This family survived, though the car was demolished.”

Tornado Path

Click Map To Enlarge

SPC coordinates:  Start: 43.00 / -83.68   End:  42.97 / -83.55      

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Newspaper Clippings


We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the May 1956 Climatological Data National Summary (CDNS) and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • Small difference here.  SPC/NCDC list 6.6 mile path.
  • Grazulis and CDNS have 6 mile path.


      The Storm Prediction Center

      NCDC Storm Events Database

      May 1956 Climatological Data National Summary

      NWS Detroit Summary


      Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 996.

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