The tornado caused injuries, overturned cars and tore roofs off buildings in a small town.
GAYLORD, MICHIGAN – A rare tornado in northern Michigan broke a small community on Friday, killing at least one person and injuring more than 40 others when it overturned vehicles, tore roofs off buildings and felled trees and power lines.
At about 3:45 p.m., the twister hit Gaylord, a city of about 4,200 people about 230 miles (370 kilometers) northwest of Detroit.
Mike Klepadla, who owns the Alter-Start North car repair shop, said he and his workers hid in the bathroom.
“I am lucky to be alive. It blew up the back of the building, ”he said. “Twenty feet (6 meters) of the back wall is gone. The whole roof is missing. At least half of the building is still here. That’s bad. “
15-year-old Emma Godard said she was working at the Tropical Smoothie Cafe when she received a phone call about a tornado. Thinking that the weather outside looked “stormy but not scary,” she dismissed it and went back to what she was doing. Then her mother called and she assured her mother that everything was fine.
Two minutes later, she was pouring a smoothie to a client when her colleague’s mom rushed in shouting for them to get to the back of the building, Gaddard told the Associated Press in a text message. They hid in the refrigerator, where you could hear the windows breaking.
“I was stuffed shoulder to shoulder with seven of my colleagues, two parents of my colleagues and a lady from Door Dash who came to pick up her smoothie.”
When 15 minutes later they got out of the fridge and went outside, they saw “some of our cars in pieces and insulation all over the ground,” Goddard said. Three neighboring businesses were destroyed, she said.
Brian Lawson, a spokesman for Munson Healthcare, said 23 people injured in the tornado were being treated at Otsego Memorial Hospital and that one person had died. He did not know the conditions of the victims or the name of the deceased.
Michigan State Police confirmed that one person was killed, reporting on Twitter that more than 40 people were injured and are being treated at district hospitals. State police planned to hold a briefing on Saturday morning.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” said Mayor Todd Sharard. “I’m numb.”
A video posted online shows a dark funnel cloud materializing from the cloud when nervous drivers look at or slowly drive away, not knowing their path.
Another video shows major damage along the city’s main street. One building seemed to have largely collapsed, and the Goodwill store was badly damaged. A collapsed pole lay on the side of the road, and debris was scattered across the street, including electrical wires and parts of the Marathon gas station.
The Red Cross created a shelter at the church.
Brandy Slough, 42, said she and her teenage daughter were looking for safety at a toilet in Culver. The windows of the fast food restaurant were smashed when they appeared, and her pickup truck overturned on the roof in the parking lot.
“We shook our heads in disbelief, but are grateful for the safety. At the moment, who cares about the truck, ”Slough said.
Eddie Thrasher, 55, said he was sitting in his car near an auto parts store when a tornado appeared to appear above him.
“There are torn roofs from enterprises, a number of warehouses of industrial type,” said Thrasher. “The revocators were overturned and destroyed. There were a lot of ambulances coming from the east side of the city. “
He said he ran to the store to drive.
“My adrenaline was going like crazy,” Thrasher said. “In less than five minutes it was over.”
Extreme winds are unusual in this part of Michigan because the Great Lakes draw energy from storms, especially in early spring when the lakes are very cold, said Jim Caesar, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service from Gaylord.
“Many children and young adults would never have experienced any harsh weather if they had lived in Gaylord all their lives,” he said.
The last time Gaylord had a strong storm was in 1998, when the rectilinear wind reached 100 miles per hour, Caesar said. He said conditions that spawned Friday’s twister included a cold front moving from Wisconsin and hitting hot and humid air over Gaylord, with the addition of a gust of wind at the bottom of the atmosphere.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of emergency in Asega County, making additional government resources available to the county.
Gaylord, known as the Alpine Village, will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year with a centennial celebration that will include a parade and an open house at City Hall later this summer.
The community also hosts the annual Alpenfest in July, an Alpine-style celebration in honor of the city’s heritage and a partnership with the twin city of Switzerland.
White reported from Detroit. AP reporters Corey Williams of Detroit, Ken Kusmer of Indianapolis, Sarah Burnett of Chicago and Steve Karnowski of Minneapolis.