Gaylord tornado: Second death reported after twister damages northern Michigan city

GAYLORD, Mich. — A tornado ripped through a small northern Michigan city on Friday, killing at least two people and injuring 44, authorities said.

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The tornado struck Gaylord, a city of approximately 4,200 people located about 230 miles northwest of Detroit, The Associated Press reported.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Gaylord Mayor Todd Sharrard said. “I’m numb.”

Update 10:12 a.m. EDT May 21: Michigan State Police reported a second death from Friday’s tornado in Gaylord, Michigan, according to The Associated Press.

The person was in their 70s and lived in a mobile home park, Lt. Derrick Carroll said during a Saturday news conference.

The first victim also lived in the mobile home park and was in their 70s, WDIV-TV reported.

Extreme spring winds are rare in northern Michigan because the Great Lakes, which are cold this time of year, neutralize energy out of storms, Jim Keysor, a Gaylord-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the AP.

Gaylord officials said that 6,500 residents were without power, WDIV reported.

Update 9:12 a.m. EDT May 21: According to the Michigan State Police and Gaylord Mayor Todd Sharrard, the tornado first struck a mobile home park and continued on a two- to three-mile swath through the city, WDIV-TV reported.

“I would say it was on the ground for about two hours,” Sharrad told the television station. “It did wipe out a Hobby Lobby, Jimmy Johns, Quick Lube on our west side of town, and then it came into town, and it wiped out a lot of homes.”

Update 11:23 p.m. EDT May 20: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer traveled to Gaylord and declared a state of emergency after Friday’s tornado in Otsego County.

“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,” Whitmer said. “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.”

Update 9:58 p.m. EDT May 20: According to the Michigan State Police, 23 people were taken to Otsego Memorial Hospital, 12 were transported to Grayling Hospital and eight were brought to McLaren Northern Michigan Petoskey. The other patient was taken to Munson Medical Center in Traverse City.

Update 9:21 p.m. EDT May 20: Gaylord Mayor Todd Sharrard confirmed that at least 44 people have been injured in the aftermath of Friday’s rare tornado in northern Michigan, WLNS-TV reported.

Update 8:01 p.m. EDT May 20: A hospital spokesperson told The Associated Press that at least one person was killed and 23 people were being treated for injuries after a tornado struck the northern Michigan city of Gaylord.

Munson Healthcare spokesperson Brian Lawson said that he had no details about the person who was killed or the conditions of those who were hurt by the tornado, according to the AP.

Original report: The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning at 3:38 p.m. EDT, and officials observed the twister three minutes later moving toward the city at 50 mph, WZZM-TV reported. An employee with the weather service observed the tornado about a mile west of Gaylord at about 3:53 p.m., reported.

Officials with the Michigan Department of Transportation told WDIV-TV that the tornado touched down near a Home Depot on the west side of the city before moving east.

“It is a busy downtown area, and it went right through it,” Lt. Jim Gorno of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources told CNN. “We aren’t used to it up here. We don’t have sirens like in other parts of the country.”

Ambulances took injured people to area hospitals, the Michigan State Police told the AP. No deaths have been confirmed, according to the news organization.

Eddie Thrasher, 55, told the AP he was sitting in his vehicle outside an auto parts store when the tornado suddenly appeared.

“There are roofs ripped off businesses, a row of industrial-type warehouses,” Thrasher told the AP, adding that he ran into the store to take shelter. “RVs were flipped upside down and destroyed. There were a lot of emergency vehicles heading from the east side of town.

“My adrenaline was going like crazy. 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 in a parking lot.

Mike Klepadlo, who owns a car repair shop in Gaylord, said he and his workers took cover in a bathroom.

“I’m lucky I’m alive. It blew the back off the building,” Klepadlo told the AP. “Twenty feet of the back wall is gone. The whole roof is missing. At least half the building is still here. It’s bad.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a statement on Twitter, noting that “Michigan is with you.”

“We will do whatever it takes to rebuild,” the governor tweeted.