GAYLORD, Mich. (FOX2) – One person died and at least 44 injured after a rare tornado hit the town of Gaylord in northern Michigan late Friday afternoon.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a state of emergency declaration and made the announcement from the scene of the disaster this evening, from where she called ‘the heart of northern Michigan’ as she visited residents and managers.
FOX 2’s Randy Wimbley learned that the tornado touched down at 3:44 p.m. just west of Gaylord in a mobile home community, then moved into the main commercial strip, damaging a business path, of buildings, houses and cars.
“By declaring a state of emergency, we are making available all state resources in cooperation with local response and recovery efforts,” Whitmer said. MSP has already done this in conjunction with these phenomenal local agencies.”
When FOX 2 arrived on the scene, power lines were seen everywhere, trees, fallen branches, and a number of badly damaged homes.
Resident Kevin Donahue was in a store with his wife at the time of the twister.
“We didn’t hear anything until the building collapsed,” he said. “And then we just got to the back, the building collapsed and a blast of air hit (my wife), something flew up and knocked her down.
“As soon as we looked into the store, it was just chaos. He blew up the whole front door, the front part of the building, ripped off half of the roof. And then all around us, c was just the devastation. The building is completely gone.”
Authorities want people to avoid the area – if you were planning on coming this weekend reschedule and visit somewhere else. They don’t want people coming to this area of first responders working to secure different areas of roads that are blocked because of these wires and trees.
Officials also want people to know that for area residents, cell towers are down, creating limited cell phone coverage, reliability and connection. Authorities are asking residents to use their cellphones only if they need to call 911 in an emergency.
Of the 44 injuries that have been reported so far, officials say many of them are in critical condition.
The area hospital operates on reserve power where the majority of the injured are treated. Some of the injured residents are receiving help from three other nearby hospitals.
Photo: Michigan State Police
Stick with FOX 2 for more on this developing story.