GAYLORD, Mich. At least one person has died and 44 others were injured when a tornado touched down in Gaylord, Michigan on Friday, according to Gaylord Mayor Todd Sharrad.
Michigan State Police and Mayor Sharrad say the tornado first hit in a mobile home park and continued in about a two to three-mile span through the commercial corridor seen in the video player above.
I would say it was on the ground for about two hours, said Gaylord Mayor Sharrad. It did wipe out a Hobby Lobby, Jimmy Johns, Quick Lube on our west side of town, and then it came into town, and it wiped out a lot of homes.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer arrived in Gaylord Friday night and put in an emergency declaration.
Its been a tough week for Northern Michigan, said Whitmer. Weve had the fire of the blue lake to todays tornado right here in Gaylord, and I know its going to be a tough weekend for families here. For businesses and for the recovery. Were Michiganders, and were tough, resilient, and weve been through a lot of tough stuff together, especially in the last few years, and we will get through this.
The damage is severe, and officials say that it will take days to assess how bad the damage is.
Ive never seen anything like this in my life, said Sharrard. A lot of the time, my drill has been going, and now its like, here feel exhausted. Im concerned about all of our citizens, all of the crew thats trying to help clean everything up to.
Officials say the damage is substantial as the people injured have been transported to multiple hospitals after the emergency facility in Gaylord stopped accepting patience due to lack of power as it is running on emergency generators.
You always see it on pictures and you always see it on tvs from other communities but not in our backyard, Sharrard said. The devastation is numbing.
Sharrard says at least 12 homes have been demolished with nothing but their foundation remaining.
There is no power, but over 100 consumer crews are traveling to Gaylord to help with the power shortage, and if youre trying to reach your loved ones, a cell phone tower has been taken out, so it may be challenging to communicate.
The National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado moved through the area around 3:45 p.m. on May 20, and viewers have been sending in pictures of the aftermath. The photos show just how substantial the damage was with even big box stores being crushed.
NWS officials said they will be surveying the damage Friday afternoon and evening. They said the survey wont be completed until Saturday. The NWS plans for a storm summary page to be shared online this evening.
Officials with the Michigan Department of Transportation said the tornado touched down near Home Depot on the west side of the city before moving east. MDOT also reported that debris were tossed onto nearby roads, including M-32. Drivers are asked to drive with caution in the area.
So we dont really know we dont know the magnitude yet, said Jim Keysor, of NWS. We have a storm survey team out right now. But we do know that theres considerable damage across the western part of Gaylord a lot of businesses, a lot of homes, theres a lot of debris and roads that are blocked by debris.
Gaylord resident Linda Buck witnessed the tornado and spoke with Local 4 on Friday.
Well my heart was racing, I was very nervous because I had actually never seen a tornado before and never seen it in action with debris so I was pretty nervous. We were just trying to think of a plan and of course, we dont have a basement at my work so we were thinking, were just gonna hunker into the back rooms if it came our way. But fortunately, it didnt. But unfortunately, there was other people who saw the brunt of it, Buck said.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer responds
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said officials are monitoring the situation in Gaylord closely.
She said Michigan State Police reported downed trees and power lines, and damage to several homes and businesses.
View photos of damaged caused by the Gaylord tornado below:
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