A rare tornado hit a small community in northern Michigan, causing an unknown number of injuries, overturning vehicles and ripping off rooftops.
Gaylord, Michigan. — A rare tornado swept through a small community in northern Michigan on Friday, causing injuries, overturning vehicles, destroying rooftops and causing other damage.
State police said ambulances were taking the injured to hospitals, although no deaths were confirmed.
The tornado hit Gaylord, a community of about 4,200 people 230 miles (370 kilometers) northwest of Detroit.
Eddie Thrasher, 55, said he was sitting in his car outside an auto parts store when the tornado appeared above him.
“There are businesses that tore their roofs off, a row of industrial warehouses,” Thrasher said. “The RV was turned upside down and destroyed. There were a lot of emergency vehicles heading from the east side of town.”
He said he ran to the store to ride it.
“My adrenaline was going like crazy,” Thrasher said. “In less than five minutes it’s over.”
State police said on Twitter that many homes were damaged, trees and power lines were down and roads were closed. Pictures circulated on social media showed several RVs torn to shreds in a parking lot.
Mike Klipadlow, owner of the Alter-Start North auto repair shop, said he and his workers took shelter in the bathroom.
“I am lucky to be alive. I blew up the back of the building.” Twenty feet (6 metres) from the back wall disappeared. The whole roof is missing. At least half of the building is still here. It’s a bad thing.”
A video posted on social media showed massive destruction along Gaylord Main Street. One of the buildings appears to have collapsed quite a bit and a goodwill store was damaged. A collapsed utility pole lay on the side of the road, and debris, including what appeared to be electrical wires and parts from a Marathon gas station, was strewn along the street.
Otsego Memorial Hospital said it had no comment on any people seeking treatment for injuries. The Red Cross was setting up a shelter in a church.
Extreme winds are uncommon in this part of Michigan because the Great Lakes absorb energy from storms, especially in early spring when the lakes are extremely cold, said Jim Keysor, a Gaylord meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
“Many children and young adults would not have experienced any direct severe weather if they had lived in Gaylord their whole lives,” he said.
The Met Office said the last time Gaylord suffered major damage from a gust of wind was in 1998, when straight-line winds reached 100mph.
Brandi Slough, 42, said she and her teenage daughter sought safety in a restroom in Culver. The windows of the fast food restaurant were shattered when they walked out, and her pickup truck flipped onto its rooftop in the parking lot.
“We shook our heads in disbelief but grateful we were safe. At that point, who cares about the truck,” Slough said.
Known as the “Alpine Village,” Gaylord is set to celebrate its 100th birthday this year, with a centenary celebration including a parade and an open house at City Hall later this summer.
The community also holds the annual Alpenfest in July, an Alpine-inspired celebration honoring the city’s heritage and a partnership with a sister city in Switzerland.
White reported from Detroit. Cory Williams in Detroit, Ken Kosmer in Indianapolis, Sarah Burnett in Chicago and Steve Karnovsky in Minneapolis contributed.