Temperatures in the 20s, Shipwrecks, Lake Michigan “pirates”, and small tornadoes top the list of Michigan weather events on this day in history. From the National Weather Service archives here are the events that happened on September 23.
1895 – The schooner A.W. Comstock, while carrying wheat, sank off of Stannard Rock as it was being towed by the steamer Viking. The Viking released her and the Comstock was tossed about in the southwest gale for six hours forcing the crew to abandon her in lifeboats. The steamer J.J. McWilliams tried to reach her, but the Comstock sank in about 400 feet of water before the McWilliams got there. The McWilliams did manage to rescue the Comstock’s crew. Winds in the gale were estimated at 70mph.
In another incident on the same day, the wood schooner, 3-mast C.H. Johnson, while carrying stone blocks, was loaded with feldspar blocks at Jacobsville, MI and bound for Chicago, when she was sheltering from a southwest gale behind St. Helena Island near Gros Cap, MI, Straits of Mackinac in Lake Michigan. Her anchor chains broke and she was driven onto the rocks, where she broke up quickly. The crew was rescued by a local fisherman who answered her distress signal. In a separate incident, the wood schooner, 3-mast Queen City, while carrying coal, was driven on the Hog Island Reef, NE of St. James, Beaver Island in Lake Michigan during a gale and sank, her crew escaping to the rigging. Beaver Island lifesavers rescued them the following day after a great struggle. She had been sheltering when lost. The wreck was reportedly stripped by “pirates” from Beaver Island. In another incident, the wood schooner Skylark, while carrying lumber, went ashore in a heavy gale and was wrecked at Naubinway, MI in Lake Michigan. She was stripped and abandoned soon after.
1974 – Grand Rapids observes a record low of 28°. This is the earliest date for a temperature reading in the 20s. In Detroit, record lows on the 22nd and 23rd of 30° and 29° respectively, bringing the earliest freeze on record. For Detroit this is the coldest reading ever recorded for the month of September.
2006 – Small tornadoes hit Caledonia in Kent County and Muir in Montcalm County. The Caledonia tornado did some roof damage to a storage facility and a barn. The Muir tornado caused no structural damage but took down some tree limbs.
Article from the National Weather Service of the event: “A Storm Survey was conducted by the National Weather Service (NWS) on Saturday evening in the Caledonia area of Southern Kent County Michigan. The NWS confirmed that a tornado was responsible for the damage near Caledonia around 5:40 PM on Saturday September 23rd.The tornado was rated an F0 on the Fujita damage scale and produced top winds of around 70 mph. An F0 tornado is defined as a weak tornado that produces winds in the 40 to 72 mph range.
The tornado touched down around 5:40 PM just north of the intersection of 100th Street and M 37 It moved northeast and caused damage to at least two businesses and a farm along the east side of M 37 before lifting near 94th at about 5:42 PM Saturday evening. The damage path was about one half mile long and about 200 feet wide.
At least two empty trailers and several golf carts were flipped over and a storage building had its corrugated steel roof peeled off at one business. Small sections of the roof were carried several hundred feet to the north by the tornado. A farm suffered extensive damage to the roof of two barns and minor damage to a silo.
An eyewitness to the storm said the winds came up suddenly and debris could be seen blowing around. The strong winds of the tornado lasted only ten to fifteen seconds at that location. Several people were in buildings directly in the path of the tornado and fortunately there were no injuries from this relatively weak tornado.
There was not a warning issued prior to the tornado touching down. On Sunday afternoon the NWS provided interviews to media outlets in Kent County and explained that there were a number of Special Weather Statements issued by the weather service prior to the touchdown that referenced reports from the Skywarn spotter network of funnel clouds in a number of areas of Southwest Lower Michigan. The NWS went on to explain the statements informed people that if funnel clouds were sited they should go to a sturdy shelter immediately. The point was made that the statements were broadcast on the NOAA All Hazards Radio and that the Radio should be as common in homes as smoke detectors. When questioned why a tornado warning was not issued prior to touchdown the NWS explained that the storm was displaying very weak to minimal rotation and that if the NWS warned for every event of that nature they fear of creating a “crying wolf” effect that would desensitize people so that they would not take appropriate action when strong storms do hit the area again.”
2010 – Two days of heavy rain produced localized flooding in Eastern Upper Michigan. Rainfall amounts of 2 to 5 inches were common, most of which fell on the night of the 23rd. Raber picked up 4.75 inches of rain, Cedarville 4.10 inches, and St Ignace 3.40 inches. A deep low pressure system over the Plains pushed a warm front north toward Upper Michigan. Heavy rain developed over portions of west and central Upper Michigan in a very moist airmass ahead of the warm front. As a result of the heavy rain, a road washed out in the Iron Mountain area and the Sturgeon River overflowed in Baraga County. The Dickinson County Sheriff reported Pine Mountain Road in Iron Mountain washed out with water over the road.