The 2018 Carleton-Detroit tornado occurred on Saturday, June 9th, 2018, and ranks as one of the deadliest and costliest tornadoes of 2018. Rated as an EF-5, the tornado first touched down in Monroe County at 4:30 p.m. and continued on a 32 mile path across Monroe and Wayne counties, causing 65 fatalities, 123 injuries and an estimated $32 million dollars in damage. Many of the fatalities occurred in the cities surrounding or within the Detroit Metropolitan Area, such as Brownstown, Taylor, Allen Park, Lincoln Park, Dearborn, and Highland Park. The tornado was apart of a much larger outbreak that had affected portions of the Great Plains and the upper Midwestern United States. The line of supercell thunderstorms had already produced deadly tornadoes in Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin, and then proceeded to move across the Great Lakes, as well as the states of Indiana and Ohio. It was the deadliest tornado to strike the state of Michigan since the 1953 Flint-Beecher tornado, and the 1956 Hudsonville-Standale tornado. Both were rated F5s. It was also the first EF-5 to strike the United States since the 2013 Moore tornado.
Prior to the tornado touching down, severe storm forecasters were tracking a large line of thunderstorms that had produced tornadoes in Ohio and Indiana. The storms intensified as they crossed the state line into Michigan, and at 4:00 p.m. the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Monroe County. Eye witnesses reported that the sky was a "murky blueish-green". Intense lightning activity was also noted, as well a low hanging wall cloud.
About a half hour after the first tornado warning was issued, the tornado touched down in a field two miles southwest of Carleton, Michigan. The tornado's formation was documented on video by many nearby storm chasers. Quickly gathering strength, the tornado began a northeasterly track. At 4:35 p.m. a tornado emergency was declared for Carleton. Nearby Doppler radar estimated that the tornado was already packing winds up to 202 miles per hour. Paralleling the Canadian National railroad tracks, the tornado moved into the Southern side of Carleton. Many homes and Businesses were completely leveled within a significant swath of EF-4 damage. A corridor of EF-5 damage was noted along Monroe street, where a row of houses were completely swept away. Four people were killed in Carleton. After exiting Carleton, the now EF-5 tornado continued along the CSX railroad tracks out of the northeastern side of Carleton. At this time, tornado emergencies were issued for Huron Charter Township and Brownstown Charter Township. The tornado crossed Interstate 275 and into the Oakwoods Metro Park. By now, the tornado was almost over a mile wide.
The tornado then crossed the Huron River into Wayne County, completely destroying many homes along West Huron, Middlebelt, and Van Horn roads in Huron Charter Township and Brownstown Charter Township. The tornado destroyed more homes as it entered more populated areas. In the tornado's path was the Huron Estates. The Huron Estates were completely leveled by the monster tornado, with much of the debris being swept away and carried over long distances. A pickup truck that was sucked up by the tornado was later found in Woodhaven as a mangled ball of steel. 10 people were killed in the Huron Estates. Four more were killed as the tornado passed over several subdivisions near the intersection of King Road and Inkster Road. At this time, more tornado emergencies were issued for Taylor, Allen Park, Lincoln Park and Southgate. The tornado moved up towards Sibley Road, completely leveling a portion of the Ford Plant in Brownstown at EF-4 intensity, and causing minor damage to the nearby Fox Creek Estates. As the tornado moved over the intersection of Pennsylvania road and Telegraph road, it heavily damaged a nearby church and destroyed an auto salvage business at EF-4 to near EF-5 intensity. As the tornado continued northeast, it leveled a school at EF-5 intensity, along with a theater, a home depot, several businesses, and many homes. Fifteen people were killed in this location. The tornado then paralleled Interstate I-75 through Taylor and the Northwestern edge of Southgate, leveling more homes and businesses at EF-4 to EF-5 intensity.
At 5:00 P.M. a blanket of tornado emergencies were issued for Detroit and all surrounding cities, including Melvindale, Dearborn, Highland Park, and Hamtramck. The tornado continued to parallel I-75 into Lincoln Park and Melvindale. Five motorists were killed on I-75 as the tornado came through. More homes and businesses were completely obliterated. 40 people were killed on this section of the tornado's path. Extensive wind rowing of debris was noted in this particular corridor of the tornado's path. The tornado at this time was exhibiting the appearance of a multiple-vortex wedge. The tornado was still over a mile wide, and was packing winds of up to 223 miles per hour. Several railroad cars were tipped over, picked up or destroyed as the tornado moved over the Norfolk Southern Railroad yard in Melvindale. The tornado went on to destroy several homes in the Springwells Village neighborhood of Southwest Detroit. The tornado then began to turn north-northeast, nearly missing the downtown Detroit area. The storm continued to level several homes passed the Interchanges of Interstates I-94 and I-96. The Motown Museum was heavily damaged at EF-3 intensity as it moved north towards the Highland Park area. In a cruel, final blow, the tornado slammed into Highland Park, re-intensifying to an EF-4. Many more homes were destroyed in the Highland Park area. Six people were killed in this area. Past Highland Park, the tornado weakened, causing damage to more neighborhoods at EF-3 to EF-2 intensity before finally dissipating northeast of the Walter P. Reuther Freeway at 5:32 P.M.
In the tornado's wake, 65 people were dead, 123 were injured, and roughly 32 million dollars in damage to the areas along the tornado's path. Damage assessments suggested that the tornado reached EF-5 intensity at four times during it's a hour rampage through the downriver area. In the Huron Estates, one rescue worker described the damage as "being so complete. There's almost nothing here to suggest that there was a neighborhood here at all. All that remains are concrete slabs, some parts here and there, and absolutely no grass." Extensive wind rowing and pavement scouring was noted in numerous locations along the tornado's path. A charter school that stood nearby the intersection of Racho Road and Eureka Road was completely leveled. Nearly 90% of the pavement in the school's parking lot. Most of the CSX railroad tracks that the tornado had been barreling down were heavily damaged. In some locations, the rails were ripped off the ground, and ties were sent flying into nearby buildings at incredible speeds.
The neighborhoods of Allen Park and Lincoln Park along I-75 were completely destroyed. A news reporter likened the scene to pictures of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb had been dropped on the city. Many of the fatalities occurred in this location. Most of the fatalities were people trapped in their cars trying to race home before the tornado struck the area, while many others were attempting to flee. This frenzy caused a traffic jam on portions of I-75, Fort Street and Dix-Toledo Highway. Southwestern Detroit, parts of Dearborn and Highland park also sustained major damage. Several neighborhoods were completely wiped away or heavily damaged.
In the end, the tornado was one of the deadliest and costliest in Michigan history. Given that many subdivisions and highly populated areas were in it's path, the final estimate of the dollars in damage was over $32 million. It would be the first EF-5 to hit the state of Michigan, and would be the deadliest tornado to strike the state since the Flint-Beecher F5 Tornado of 1953, and the Hudsonville-Standale F-5 tornado of 1956. It would also become the first EF-5 to strike the country since the 2013 Moore Tornado. Since the tornado maintained a EF-4 and EF-5 strength along most of it's path, it would become known as one of the most powerful tornadoes of 2018. It would also be the first a powerful tornado struck the downriver area of Michigan since the F-4 rated tornado that struck Temperance, Michigan on June 8th, 1953.
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