Tornado hits northern Michigan community, causing extensive damage

GAYLORD, Mich. (AP) — A tornado ripped through a small northern Michigan community on Friday, inflicting injuries, flipping vehicles, ripping roofs off buildings and causing other damage.

Ambulances were transporting injured people to hospitals, but no deaths were confirmed, state police said.

The tornado hit Gaylord, a community of about 4,200 people about 230 miles (370 kilometers) northwest of Detroit.

Eddie Thrasher, 55, said he was sitting in his car outside an auto parts store when the tornado appeared above him.

“There are roofs ripped off businesses, a row of industrial-type warehouses,” Thrasher said. “Motorhomes were overturned and destroyed. There were a lot of emergency vehicles coming from the east end of town.

He said he ran into the store to get out.

“My adrenaline was going crazy,” Thrasher said. “In less than five minutes, it was over.”

Several homes were damaged and trees and power lines were down and blocking roads, state police said on Twitter. Footage shared on social media showed several shredded motorhomes in a parking lot.

Mike Klepadlo, owner of Alter-Start North, an auto repair shop, said he and his employees hid in a bathroom.

“I’m lucky to be alive. He blew up the back of the building,” he said. “Twenty feet (6 meters) of the back wall is gone. The whole roof is missing. At least half of the building is still there. It’s bad.”

This image, provided by Steven Bischer, shows extensive tornado damage in Gaylord, Michigan on Friday.


Video posted to social media showed extensive damage along the main street of Gaylord. A 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 strewn all along the street.

Otsego Memorial Hospital said it had not commented on people seeking treatment for injuries. The Red Cross was setting up a shelter in a church.

Brandie Slough, 42, said she and a teenage daughter sought safety in a Culver’s toilet. The fast food outlet’s windows were blown out as they exited and his van was flipped onto its roof in the parking lot.

“We shook our heads in disbelief, but thankful to be safe. At this point, who cares about the truck,” Slough said.

Gaylord, known as the ‘Alpine Village’, is due to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, with a centenary celebration that will include a parade and an open day at Town Hall later this summer.

The community also hosts the annual Alpenfest in July, an Alpine-inspired celebration honoring the city’s heritage and partnering with a sister city in Switzerland.