Gaylord, Michigan tornado: At least 1 dead, 40 injured – USA TODAY

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GAYLORD, Mich. — A tornado tore through a small northern Michigan community on Friday, killing at least one person and injuring at least 40 others as it flipped vehicles, tore the roofs off of buildings, and downed trees and power lines.
“It just touched down at around 3:45 and just went right through town,” said Sean Christensen, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. 
The tornado struck Gaylord, a community of roughly 4,200 people about 230 miles northwest of Detroit. Michigan State Police announced an overnight curfew and asked residents to shelter in place on Friday night. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Ostego County.
Brian Lawson, a spokesman for Munson Healthcare, said Gaylord-Otsego Memorial Hospital was treating 23 people who were injured by the tornado and that one person was killed. He didn’t know the conditions of the injured or the name of the person who died. Lawson said the pace of people being brought to the hospital had slowed by Friday evening.
The Michigan State Patrol confirmed that one person was killed, saying in a tweet that more than 40 others were hurt and being treated at area hospitals. The patrol planned to hold a briefing Saturday morning.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Mayor Todd Sharrard said. “I’m numb.”
The roof of a Hobby Lobby was ripped off, and the town was eerily empty Friday night. Traffic lights stopped working and emergency vehicles are the only ones around.
Gaylord residents were walking around, stunned.
Severe weather is unusual in the region.
Jim Keysor, a Gaylord-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said extreme winds are uncommon in that part of Michigan because the Great Lakes suck energy out of storms, especially early in spring when the lakes are very cold.
“Many kids and young adults would have never experienced any direct severe weather if they had lived in Gaylord their entire lives,” he said.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a tweet her heart goes out to the families and businesses that have been hurt by the tornado.
“To the entire Gaylord community — Michigan is with you,” she said. “We will do what it takes to rebuild.”
Whitmer declared a state of emergency for Otsego County, making further state resources available to the county.
Eddie Thrasher, 55, said he was sitting in his car outside an auto parts store when the twister seemed to appear above him.
“There are roofs ripped off businesses, a row of industrial-type warehouses,” Thrasher said. “RVs were flipped upside down and destroyed. There were a lot of emergency vehicles heading from the east side of town.”
He said he ran into the store to ride it out.
“My adrenaline was going like crazy,” Thrasher said. “In less than five minutes it was over.”
Multiple homes were damaged and trees, and powerlines were down and blocking roads, State Police said on Twitter. Images shared on social media showed multiple RVs shredded to pieces in a parking lot.
Mike Klepadlo, owner of Alter-Start North, a car repair shop, said he and his workers took cover in a bathroom.
“I’m lucky I’m alive. It blew the back off the building,” he said. “Twenty feet of the back wall is gone. The whole roof is missing. At least half the building is still here. It’s bad.”
Video posted on social media showed extensive damage along Gaylord’s Main Street.
One building appeared to be largely collapsed and a Goodwill store was badly damaged. A collapsed utility pole lay on the side of the road, and debris, including what appeared to be electrical wires and parts of a Marathon gas station, was scattered all along the street.
Otsego Memorial Hospital said it had no comment about any people seeking treatment for injuries. The Red Cross was setting up a shelter at a church.
Brandie Slough, 42, said she and a teen daughter sought safety in a restroom at a Culver’s. Windows of the fast food restaurant were blown out when they emerged, and her pickup truck had been flipped on its roof in the parking lot.
“We shook our heads in disbelief but are thankful to be safe. At that point, who cares about the truck,” Slough said.
Gaylord, known as the “Alpine Village,” is set to celebrate its 100th birthday this year, with a centennial celebration that will include a parade and 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.
Contributing: Emma Stein and Paul Welitzkin, Detroit Free Press


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