Two dead, dozens injured in rare northern Michigan tornado


GAYLORD, Michigan – A tornado that killed at least two people and injured dozens more fell from the sky in far northern Michigan on Friday and onto a mobile home park before tearing a three-block hole in the small town of Gaylord.

“It all erupted before my eyes,” said Logan Clayton, 18, who was at home in the Nottingham Forest mobile home park, where the deaths were reported, when the winds became so strong that a window shattered. is broken. He remembers seeing “somebody get picked up, trailers get picked up. It all happened in 10 seconds and then it was gone.

As cleanup began Saturday and more than 40 people were treated for injuries, officials struggled to understand the damage in an area where tornadoes are rare. One person was missing and crews were searching through the wreckage of the EF-3 tornado, which the National Weather Service said had peak winds of 140 miles per hour.

“We were calling them by name, trying to see if they were still in their damaged homes,” Chief Frank Claeys of the Gaylord Police Department said. “And when you see that, it’s a lot more personal when our officers know the names of the people who live in those homes.”

Forecasters had warned of the potential for severe weather on Friday, but the tornado that hit Gaylord, which has a population of 4,300, came on suddenly anyway. A severe thunderstorm warning issued in the afternoon was quickly upgraded to a tornado warning. The city, about 230 miles northwest of Detroit, has no tornado sirens, officials said, but area residents were alerted to the storm by emergency notifications on their cellphones. .

Within minutes, a tornado slammed into the ground, tearing through mobile homes, then charging across the city limits from west to east. Cars were thrown on top of each other in a parking lot at Hobby Lobby. A truck was overturned next to a sign for a Culver’s restaurant. The roofs of several businesses had collapsed.

“This storm went to many places and did a lot of damage — affected many homes, the commercial corridor,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, a Democrat who visited Gaylord on Saturday.

Mr Clayton said he only heard about the coming storm because of a call from his older brother, Declan, who was at a Meijer gas station just down the street and saw winds swirling and birds whirling in the sky. By the time the eldest, Mr Clayton, returned to the mobile home park, debris blocked the roads leading to the complex.

“I had to run a block to our trailer, jump over trees and rubble, help people where I could,” 20-year-old Declan Clayton said. “Because there were people coming out of the rubble with injuries. There were confused people. They didn’t know what had happened.

More than 40 people were treated in hospitals for their injuries, and officials said it was possible others were injured but did not seek medical attention. So many people needed care that patients were redirected to other hospitals in the area as Gaylord’s filled up.

On Saturday, mall parking lots in parts of Gaylord remained fields of debris. Part of the facade of a Goodwill store was missing. Broken bricks and broken plywood were strewn outside the entrance to a Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

Athena and Steve Sherbert, who were dropping off their daughter for a shift at the smoothie cafe when the storm hit, ended up climbing out of the tornado in the restaurant’s cooler.

“Just as we were running to the cooler, that’s when the windows shattered,” Sherbert said. “I could feel the glass hitting the back of my legs.”

Tornadoes are much less common in Michigan than in many other Midwestern states. John Boris of the National Weather Service office in Gaylord said the state averages about 15 tornadoes a year. Most of these occur well south of Gaylord, about 60 miles from the northern tip of the state’s Lower Peninsula.

“Stuff like that doesn’t happen here,” said Joshua Comoford, 22, who was handing out drinks to firefighters and volunteers at the mobile home park on Saturday. “You have thunderstorms or strong winds. But a tornado actually tearing our city apart? Nothing like this has ever happened in my lifetime.

Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. Derrick Carroll said power outages continued in parts of Gaylord on Saturday and a curfew would remain in place that night. The two people known to have died were in their 60s, he said. One of them was found on Friday night during a search of the mobile home park with a dead dog. Crews continued to search for a missing person on Saturday.

For those like Jasmine Vandenbrook, whose mobile home was smothered by other trailers and destroyed, the challenge was how to move on now. Ms Vandenbrook, 31, who shared the home with five family members, said she did not have tenants insurance. They had only been able to recover a few items.

“It’s very hard to see that you don’t have anything,” said Ms Vandenbrook, who picked up donated supplies – blankets, clothes, food – at a local church. “All your possessions, everything has just been ripped from your house.”

His family is now living in a friend’s motorhome until they can find a place to rent.

Luc Vander Ploeg reported from Gaylord, and Michael Smith from Chicago.

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