A second person was killed in a tornado that hit northern Michigan, authorities said Saturday, as crews searched a mobile home park that was all but destroyed by the rare weather event.
The person, in his 70s, lived at the Nottingham mobile home park in Gaylord, which was one of the first sites hit by the tornado on Friday afternoon, state police Lt. Derrick Carroll said.
“There have been trailers picked up and dumped on top of each other. Just a very large debris field,” said Otsego County Fire Chief Chris Martin. “Teams are out there right now doing a secondary search with heavy gear.”
He said “there’s probably 95% destruction there.”
Gaylord, a city of about 4,200 people, is about 230 miles northwest of Detroit.
More than 40 people were injured. Carroll said at least one person was not counted Saturday morning, although that person did not live in the mobile home park.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency, making more state resources available. Thousands of people in the area were without power and some roads were still clogged with fallen utility poles and other debris.
“We have a lot of debris to clean up,” Carroll said.
Betty Wisniewski, 87, avoided injury even though the tornado significantly damaged her home, said her son Steve Wisniewski, who lives next door.
“Fortunately she was fine, rosary in hand,” he said from a ladder as he put plastic on his windows. “She was praying. Pretty impressive.”
Gaylord Police Chief Frank Claeys said the moments immediately following the tornado were difficult for first responders.
“We were looking in places where we knew the occupants. We were calling them by name,” Claeys said. “It’s so much more personal when our officers get to know the people who live in those homes.”
Gaylord doesn’t have tornado sirens. Carroll said anyone with a cell phone was alerted to a tornado warning about 10 minutes before she hit.
John Boris of the National Weather Service in Gaylord said the tornado passed through the community in about three minutes, but was on the ground in the region for 26 minutes, a “pretty long” time.
“We don’t have many tornadoes,” Boris said. “In the state of Michigan, in general, we usually have an average of about 15 (a year) and more of them are in the south of the state than in the north. It is quite unusual.