SCHOOLCRAFT COUNTY, Mich. (WJMN) – The National Weather Service arrived at Indian River Campground in Schoolcraft County early Thursday morning and was able to determine a tornado was not the cause of damage to the campground.
“Typically when we get reports of concentrated damage like that, we will go out in the field and assess the damage to number one, come up with the speed of the winds that produced the damage, and number two, classify whether it was just straight line winds or a tornado,” said Matt Zika, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service Marquette office.
“The only way the weather service can assign wind speeds to damage that occurs is by going and seeing what actually occurred. So between trees being blown down, snapped, uprooted, or damage to homes. There’s been a lot of research done to show at what wind speeds actually produce those types of damages. if you have a hardwood tree that snapped, research shows that wind speeds are somewhere between 90 and 110 miles an hour in order to snap off large hardwood trees. Softer trees like most of the pine trees and some of the poplars take less wind speed to produce similar damage,” said Zika.
The NWS first reported strong storms in the area of Indian River Campground just south of Steuben just after 3:00 p.m on Wednesday. The actual area of the damage was contained to a 200×300 yard area.
No injuries were reported, but the campground is inaccessible. Zika said the damage at the campground in Schoolcraft County was caused by what is called a microburst.
“The best way to imagine what a microburst is like dropping a rock from high in the atmosphere into a bucket of water. And when all of the rain and hail comes crashing to the ground out of the storm might be on the speeds of what you would see in a tornado. But it’s just straight line winds that come down, hit the ground, pancake and blow out in one direction,” added Zika.
When it comes to tracking storms, the NWS has a lot of great resources. One of them is the people of the U.P.
“We have the Doppler weather radar here in Negaunee watching the whole U.P. That’s probably our most valuable tool when we have when it comes to watching thunderstorms and determining whether they’re severe or not. Given how large the U.P. is and the rural nature of the U.P., sometimes its difficult for us to get ground truth reports as to what’s happening underneath those thunderstorm clouds. That’s why we rely on folks from the west end to the east end of the u.p. to relay information to us when significant weather is occurring. That information can come to us either via phone call, social media, storm report forms on our website.
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