At least one person was killed and 44 people injured when a tornado swept through northern Michigan on Friday, damaging numerous homes and businesses, overturning cars and knocking over trees, authorities said.
The patients were taken to four different hospitals, although their condition was not immediately available.
Michigan State Police Lieutenant Derrick Carroll reported from Gaylord, a town of about 4,000 on Michigan’s lower peninsula, that the storm had ripped through a mobile home park and business district, cutting off power.
Gaylord City Council member Vic Ouellette, 74, was in the basement of the home where he was born when the three-bedroom building collapsed on him and his wife, he said in a telephone interview.
“I have a chicken egg the size of a lemon on my head where the roof hit me,” Mr Ouellette said as he waited to be seen at a nearby emergency room, wearing only shorts, a T-shirt and slippers. . “I’m lucky I’m still alive.”
Although his childhood home was destroyed, Mr Ouellette said, he and his wife would be fine, thanks to the people who helped lift them from the rubble. “We couldn’t have made it without help,” he said.
Mr Ouellette, a retired police officer, rushed and his wife to the basement after receiving a tornado warning on his phone. There he peeked out a window and watched aluminum siding ripped off a neighbor’s house. That’s when the tornado hit his house and stunned him.
“It’s like being in a snow globe,” he said. “The dust flies. Water flies. You can’t see anything. It’s like being in a cloud.”
Video posted on Twitter showed a trail of destruction along a trade lane in Gaylord, about 275 miles north of Lansing.
Andy Sullivan, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s office in Gaylord, said there was “no doubt” that a tornado had struck and said it was a “very strong one.” He said the office had assessment teams in the community. He added that it was unusual for a tornado to hit Northern Michigan.
The tornado, which struck around 3:45 p.m., “devastated the commercial district,” he said.
Michigan State Police said on Twitter that trees and power lines were blocking roads and reported that “several homes and businesses” were damaged.
Lieutenant Carroll said officials were urging people to stay away and numerous ambulance crews from across the region had responded. He said it appeared the entire community had been affected, including a mobile home park he described as “pretty bad.”
Michael Ryan, a councilor who lives across the street from his colleague, Mr Ouellette, said the tornado ripped shingles from his roof and shattered his windows. On Friday evening, he sat in his car near him and oversaw the destruction. He saw trees broken or snapped in half, knocking down power lines scattered across an area estimated to be four blocks by four blocks.
“The house next to me has collapsed,” he said. “Vic’s house is on its foundations. The house next door is still standing, but the roof is gone.”
Mayor Todd Sharrard said Friday night Gaylord had lost power and some injured residents were being diverted to other nearby hospitals.
“The tornado stayed on the ground for more than two miles,” he said. “Right through the heart of our city.”
Mr Sharrard said emergency services from across Northern Michigan assisted in the rescue and clearance efforts. He said city officials were in the process of instituting a curfew because “we’re getting too many viewers.”
Scott Distler, the senior pastor of E-Free Church in Gaylord, said the west side of town had suffered extensive damage. “There are areas that have been leveled,” he said. “And we know at least two families in our church who have lost their homes.”
The E-Free Church serves as a community shelter, and Mr. Distler said many people had taken refuge in the church.
In the 11 years he has lived in Gaylord, he said, he had never seen a tornado like this.
“This is Northern Michigan, we’re used to snow storms,” Mr. Distler said. “No tornadoes.”
In a statement on TwitterGovernor Gretchen Whitmer, who declared a state of emergency in Otsego County late Friday, said: “To the entire Gaylord community — Michigan is with you. We will do everything we can to rebuild it.”
Isabella Grullon Pazi reporting contributed.