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Tornado in Northern Michigan kills one person and damages homes and businesses


At least one person was killed and nearly two dozen injured after a tornado swept through northern Michigan on Friday, damaging several homes and businesses, flipping cars and knocking down trees, authorities said.

Bailey Wilkins, spokesperson for the state’s Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, confirmed the death and 23 injuries. The conditions of the injured were not immediately available.

Michigan State Police Lt. Derrick Carroll reported from Gaylord, a town of about 4,000 people in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, that the storm tore through a mobile home park and the business district and had cut off the current.

Gaylord City Council member Vic Ouellette, 74, was in the basement of the house where he was born when the three-bedroom structure collapsed on him and his wife, he said during of a telephone interview.

“I have a goose egg the size of a lemon on the top of my head where the roof hit me,” Mr Ouellette said as he waited to be seen in a hall. nearby, dressed only in shorts, a T-shirt and a slipper. “I’m lucky to be alive.”

Although his childhood home was destroyed, Mr. Ouellette said, he and his wife would pull through, thanks to the people who helped pull them out of the rubble. “We couldn’t have gotten out of there without help,” he said.

Mr. Ouellette, a retired police officer, rushed with his wife into the basement after receiving a tornado warning on his phone. There he peeked out a window and saw the aluminum siding ripped from a neighbor’s house. That’s when the tornado hit his house, stunning him.

“It’s like being inside a snow globe,” he says. “Dust flies. Water flies. You can’t see anything. It is as if you were inside a cloud.

Video posted on Twitter showed a trail of destruction along a commercial strip at Gaylord, which is about 175 miles north of Lansing.

Andy Sullivan, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Gaylord, said there was “no doubt” a tornado had struck and said it was “very strong at it”. He said the office had assessment teams in the community. He added that it was unusual for a tornado to hit northern Michigan.

The tornado, which hit around 3:45 p.m., “heavily damaged” the shopping district, he said.

Michigan State Police said on Twitter that trees and power lines blocked the roads and reported that “several homes and businesses” had been damaged.

Lt. Carroll said officials were urging people to stay away and many ambulance crews across the region responded. He said it looked like the whole community had been hit, including a trailer park which he described as “pretty bad”.

Michael Ryan, a council member who lives across the street from his colleague, Mr Ouellette, said the tornado ripped shingles off his roof and smashed his windows. On Friday evening, he sat in his car in his neighborhood and inspected the destruction. He saw trees snapped in half or ripped and downed power lines scattered in an area he estimated to be about four blocks by four city blocks.

“The house next to me collapsed,” he said. “Vic’s house is no longer on its foundations. The house next door is still standing, but the roof has disappeared.

Mayor Todd Sharrard said Friday night that Gaylord had lost power and some injured residents were being redirected to other nearby hospitals.

“The tornado stayed on the ground for a good two miles,” he said. “Right in the heart of our city.

Mr. Sharrard said emergency crews from across northern Michigan were assisting with rescue and cleanup efforts. He said city officials were working to institute a curfew because “we have too many onlookers.”

Scott Distler, the senior pastor of E-Free Church in Gaylord, said the west side of town suffered extensive damage. “There are areas that have been leveled,” he said. “And we know of at least two families in our church who have lost their homes.”

The E-Free Church serves as a haven for the community, and Mr Distler said many people have sought refuge at the church.

In the 11 years he lived in Gaylord, he said, he had never seen a tornado quite like this.

“This is northern Michigan, we’re used to blizzards,” Distler said. “Not tornadoes.”

In a statement on Twitter, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said, “To the entire Gaylord community – Michigan is with you. We will do what it takes to rebuild.

Isabella Grullon Paz contributed report.



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