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One dead, 44 injured in Michigan tornado that tore through homes and businesses

NBC News logo NBC News 5/21/2022 Dennis Romero and Janhvi Bhojwani and TJ Swigart and Phil Helsel
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One person has died and 44 others were injured when a tornado struck Northern Michigan on Friday afternoon, authorities said.

Michigan State Police confirmed the fatality Friday evening and said 44 people were taken to multiple hospitals in Northern Michigan. Conditions of the patients were unavailable.

The tornado struck the city of Gaylord, about 230 miles north of Detroit, damaging an unknown number of homes and businesses and felling trees and power lines, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement.

At a Friday evening news conference the governor signed a declaration of emergency for Otsego County, which includes Gaylord. "We'll do whatever it takes to rebuild," she said.

NBC affiliate WPBN of Traverse City, Michigan, broadcast images of mobile homes flipped and knocked over at a Gaylord trailer park. It also showed footage of buildings ripped apart near theaters known as Gaylord Cinema West.

Power outages in the area prompted Gaylord's Otsego Memorial Hospital to divert some new patients to other facilities, the station reported.

More than 14,000 customers in Northern Michigan were without power Friday, according to PowerOutage.US, including more than a third of utility users in Gaylord.


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The city of Gaylord declared a 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew and asked residents to shelter in place, according to state police.

Whitmer said earlier in the day she would commit the resources to support the rebuilding effort.

“My heart goes out to the families and small businesses impacted by the tornado and severe weather in Gaylord,” she tweeted. “To the entire Gaylord community—Michigan is with you.”

A National Weather Service employee reported seeing a tornado touch down on the west side of Gaylord at 3:53 p.m. National Weather Service meteorologist Rich Pollman said by email the agency had initially confirmed the tornado.

Details about the tornado’s strength and path were pending the completion of storm surveys.

The agency’s process of fully confirming tornadoes usually includes a next-day walkthrough of the impacted area to measure its possible path and damage.

A supercell thunderstorm produced the tornado that hit the town, the National Weather Service said in a statement.

The supercell formed as thunderstorms swept across Michigan. Surface low pressure strengthened west of Lake Michigan, and that drew warm, moist air north across the state and created the instability to support the storms, the weather service said.

After producing the tornado that hit Gaylord, the supercell would go on to drop hail the size of baseballs on Posen, a village 50 miles to the east, the agency said.

Federal forecasters said severe storms from Lower Michigan to southern Oklahoma and eastern Texas were possible through Saturday.

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