GAYLORD, Mich. – At least two people have died and more than 40 others were injured when a tornado touched down in Gaylord, Michigan on Friday, according to officials.
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.
Michigan State Police said on Saturday that the two victims of the tornado were people in their 70s, and both were in the mobile home park that sustained extensive damage. Thousands of homes in the area are without power.
“It’s been a tough week for Northern Michigan,” said Whitmer. “We’ve had the fire of the blue lake to today’s tornado right here in Gaylord, and I know it’s going to be a tough weekend for families here. For businesses and for the recovery. We’re Michiganders, and we’re tough, resilient, and we’ve 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.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said Sharrard. “A lot of the time, my drill has been going, and now it’s like, ‘here feel exhausted.’ I’m concerned about all of our citizens, all of the crew that’s 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 tv’s 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.
Read: ‘It was like driving around a war zone’: Tornado destroys at least 12 homes in Gaylord
There is no power, but over 100 consumer crews are traveling to Gaylord to help with the power shortage, and if you’re 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 won’t 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 don’t really know we don’t know the magnitude yet,” said Jim Keysor, of NWS. “We have a storm survey team out right now. But we do know that there’s considerable damage across the western part of Gaylord a lot of businesses, a lot of homes, there’s a lot of debris and roads that are blocked by debris.
View: Pictures, videos show considerable damage from tornado in Gaylord area
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 don’t have a basement at my work so we were thinking, we’re just gonna hunker into the back rooms if it came our way. But fortunately, it didn’t. But unfortunately, there was other people who saw the brunt of it,” Buck said.
Original report: Tornado touches down Friday in Gaylord; Stores damaged, vehicles tossed, injuries reported
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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