Tornado wreaks havoc in northern Michigan community

A tornado ripped through a small northern community in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula on Friday, flipping vehicles, ripping roofs off buildings and causing other damage.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or fatalities from the tornado that 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 downed and blocked 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.”

Video posted on social media showed extensive damage along the main street of Gaylord. A building appeared to be largely collapsed and part of a Goodwill store had been 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.

Brandie Slough, 42, said she and a teenage daughter sought safety in a Culver’s toilet. The windows of the fast food restaurant were blown out when they appeared and his van was overturned on 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 house 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.


White reported from Detroit. AP reporters Corey Williams in Detroit, Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis and Sara Burnett in Chicago contributed.