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At least 2 dead, 44 injured after tornado moves through Michigan city

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declares a state of emergency for Otsego County
Tornado Michigan
Posted at 11:29 AM, May 21, 2022

GAYLORD, Mich. — Authorities in Michigan say at least two people have died, and 44 others were injured after a tornado touched down in Otsego County on Friday.

On Friday, Michigan State Police took to Twitter to update the public about the damage the tornado caused in Gaylord, including trees and power lines blocking roadways and businesses and homes being damaged.

The National Weather Service confirmed the tornado traveled through Gaylord just before 4 p.m. Officials say they believe it was on the ground for 26 minutes and traveled through town in about three minutes.

Tornado Michigan
In this photo provided by Angela Russ, severe weather damage is seen in Gaylord, Mich., just off the city’s 75 southbound 282 exit, Friday, May 20, 2022. (Angela Russ via AP)

There are no tornado sirens in the city of Gaylord, but officials said code red alerts are sent through to cell phones when alerts are issued from the NWS. Officials said a warning went out about 10 minutes before the tornado touched down.

The first death was reported Friday evening.

A second death was reported Saturday at 1 a.m. Both of the deceased victims are believed to have been at Nottingham Forest Mobile Home Park at the time of the tornado. The mobile home park was heavily hit and is estimated to be 95% destroyed.

Tornado Michigan
Damage is seen at the home of Betty Wisniewski after a tornado came through the area in Gaylord, Mich., Friday, May 20, 2022. Wisniewski's son said she escaped unharmed. (AP Photo/John Flesher)

The injured were reportedly taken to several area hospitals, including Grayling Hospital, McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey, and Munson Medical Center in Traverse City.

Additional details about the person killed and those injured are unclear at this time. Officials say crews are now conducting a secondary search of the affected area.

MSP says several homes and businesses are damaged and that trees and power lines are blocking roads. Thousand are without power. People are being advised to avoid the area, and residents have been asked to shelter in place.

Tornado Michigan
A telephone pole and power lines are seen downed after a tornado came through the area in Gaylord, Mich., Friday, May 20, 2022. (AP Photo/John Flesher)

I-75 was reduced to one lane in each direction as crews cleaned the area.

The city of Gaylord issued a curfew at 7 p.m. Friday. It lifted at 8 a.m. Saturday. Another curfew will be issued at the same time Saturday evening.

A missing person hotline has been set up for Gaylord: (989) 705-3780.

Those seeking shelter can visit E-Free Church in Gaylord at 1649 E. M-32, where the American Red Cross is providing assistance.

Photos and videos from Gaylord posted on social media show some of the extensive damage.

Tornado Michigan
Tornado damage is seen at a church in Gaylord, Mich., Friday, May 20, 2022. (AP Photo/John Flesher)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency while at the emergency operations center in Gaylord on Friday, and Otsego County has declared a local state of emergency.

Whitmer released the following statement:

“My heart goes out to the families and small businesses impacted by the tornado and severe weather in Gaylord,” said Governor Whitmer. “I have declared a state of emergency for Otsego County to rush resources to the affected areas, and the State Emergency Operations Center has been activated to coordinate our state's response. Our state is grateful for the first responders and utility workers who are working hard to keep everyone safe. Michiganders are tough. We are resilient. And there’s no challenge we can’t get through together.”

Sarah Fake of Gaylord spoke with WXYZ after the tornado. She says she got home just in time to take cover.

“I had just gotten home and came inside, and my mom asked if I closed the garage, and we went to go close it, and the wind just swooshed. It took two of us to close the door and we closed it and ran to the basement. And by less than a minute, it was over with,” she said.

Fake said it was just her and her mom's home at the time. She said her dad and brother were at a Powerhouse Gym, where the windows broke, and people hid in the sauna.

Fake said she did not hear tornado warning sirens until after the tornado was done as she walked outside to look at the damage.

“I was shocked. I thought nothing of a tornado warning,” Fake said. “All of the trees were snapped in half. The power line is down to the wire fence. We can’t let the dog out right now, and in the front yard, all the trees are gone. My mom’s tire was popped… and on the side of our house, we have damage.”

She said an area near her home is blocked off due to a downed tree and power line. She said no one in her family was injured.

Other Michigan lawmakers have also released statements following the tornado in Gaylord:

Sen. Jim Stamas

“I want to thank our brave first responders, our local police officers and firefighters, as well as the Michigan State Police Troopers who have stepped up to keep people safe,” said Sen. Jim Stamas. “It is crucial for people to stay inside if possible and stay away from any downed power lines or debris. Let’s all hug our families a little tighter, and let’s all work together to rebuild and recover from this storm together.”

Rep. Ken Borton

“The tornado damage in Gaylord is absolutely devastating. Brenda and I are praying for all our Gaylord neighbors,” said Rep. Ken Borton. “ We especially pray for anyone who lost a friend or a family member – they have our deepest sympathies. We also pray for a speedy recovery for the injured. Police, first responders, and medical professionals in our community are working extra hard today, and we thank them for their work getting people to safety and treating the wounded.”

Natalia Escalante and Alexandra Bahou from WXYZ first reported this story.