This week in weather history: May 4-8,1964 tornado outbreak

Meteorologist Erik Dean breaks down the week in 1964.

I often say that the Black Hills region, as well as the Intermountain West, the month of May is what I consider “Mother Nature’s Wild Card”. What I mean is that we can see pretty much anything and everything just in this month alone. I’ve seen instances where we’ve had a tornado touchdown somewhere, and literally two days later, the same area received snow.

This week is the anniversary of the tornado outbreak that occurred from May 4 – May 8 in 1964. This outbreak produced 73 tornadoes, three of which were violent, and one of them was rated an F5 (notice I didn’t say EF5). The Enhanced Fujita Scale, which is what we use today, was adopted in 2007 to replace the old Fujita Scale. The main differences are listed below.

Fujita Vs Ef

One of the most destructive tornadoes that occurred was an F4 tornado in Michigan.

Daily breakdown

May 4
Iowa – Three tornadoes, all of which were F2
Wisconsin – Five tornadoes, two were F1, three were F2
On May 4, the first tornado occurred at 4:40 p.m. near Melrose, WI. The last one was reported at 8:30 p.m. near Necedah, WI.

May 5
Iowa – one tornado – an F3 that spanned nearly 70 miles.
Kansas – seven tornadoes – one was an F0, one was an F1, three were F2, two were F3.
Minnesota – three tornadoes – one was an F2, two were F3.
North Dakota – two tornadoes – one was an F2, one was an F3.
Nebraska – four tornadoes – one was an F1, one was an F2, one was an F4, and one was an F5 (with fatalities)*.
Oklahoma –  seven tornadoes – two were F0, three were F1, two were F2.
South Dakota – six tornadoes – two were F0, two were F1, two were F2.
Wisconsin – one tornado – an F1 near McKinley.
On May 5, the first tornado occurred at 2:15 p.m. near Barron, WI. The last one was reported at 11:45 p.m. near Grant, OK.

May 6
Michigan – one tornado – an F2 Northeast of Sundell.
Nebraska – two tornadoes – one was an F1, one was an F2.
Oklahoma – two tornadoes – one was an F2, one was an F0.
On May 6, the first tornado occurred at 12:10 a.m. near Grant, OK. The last one was reported at 6:00 p.m. near Sundell, MI.

May 7
Iowa – seven tornadoes – two were F1, four were F2, and one was an F3.
Texas – four tornadoes – three were F1, one was an F0.
Wisconsin – two Tornadoes – both were F2.
On May 7, the first tornado occurred at 2:50 a.m. near Meadow Valley, WI. The last one was reported at 6:35 p.m. near Waterloo, IA.

May 8
Iowa – two tornadoes – one was an F2, one was an F3.
Kansas – one tornado – an F1 North of Scott City.
Michigan – five tornadoes – four were F2, one was F4 (With fatalities)**.
South Dakota – three tornadoes – All were F1.
Texas – one tornado – an F0 near Ft. Stockton.
Wisconsin – five tornadoes – all of which were F2.
On May 8, the first tornado occurred at 3:00 a.m. near Scott City, KS. The last one was reported at 10:58 p.m. near Hawks, MI.

* On May 5, 1964, the F5 tornado touched down near Hastings, Nebraska. After it touched down there, it moved into York County, where it stuck the city of Bradshaw, killing four people and injuring 50. This tornado is the only official F5 tornado in the state of Nebraska. After speaking with the National Weather Service office in Omaha, NE, that record is still true as of May 4, 2022.

** On May 8, 1964, an F4 tornado struck the Anchor Bay/Mt. Clemens area in Michigan. 11 deaths were reported, 244 people were injured, of which 88 were hospitalized. 132 homes were destroyed. To this day, this is one of the strongest tornadoes in Michigan history.

Here is the map overview of that week
May 4 8 State Breakdown

The first map denotes how many total tornadoes each state had for the week. Wisconsin and Iowa had the most with 13. The two states that had the six tornadoes each (Michigan and Nebraska) are the only two states that had reported fatalities. In total, this storm had 15 fatalities and caused $3,445,000 in damage (1964 USD). That would be $31,950,041 in 2022.

May 4 8 Location Map

Simply put, when you look at this map here, you can see that “Tornado Alley” certainly lived up to its name. This map shows where the confirmed tornadoes were reported. Talk about an interesting week to say the least.

May 4 8 Category Breakdown

The bottom line: The majority of the tornadoes were F1 & F2, but within that week, we witnessed every single category being classified.

Do you remember this event? If so, what do you remember about it? Were you in it? I’d love to hear what you remember about this event. If you have memories of this storm, or if you were in it, I’d love to talk to you. You can email me at, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday.


Categories: ConnectCenter1-Weather, Local News