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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Declares State of Emergency

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Declares State of Emergency After Deadly Tornado

A Friday tornado brought big damage to a small Michigan city, causing two deaths, 44 injured, property destruction and power outages.

In the early afternoon hours, the powerful tornado first hit a trailer park on the edge of Gaylord, Mich., damaging many homes in the park. It then reportedly continued through the business district on its way to residential areas, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

Gaylord At Large Councilman Vic Ouellette Saturday confirmed the trailer park sustained substantial damage. He added a nearby Camper/RV center lost a lot of trailers, too. “A lot of trailers were destroyed,” Oullette said in a telephone interview, adding there was a lot of damage throughout the city.

“I think that Gaylord took the brunt of the storm,” he said, when asked if other nearby communities were also destroyed.

The councilman is a retired law enforcement officer with most of his 26-year career spent with the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Department. The veteran officer said what happened during the tornado was about the most scared he has ever been. He and his wife both suffered injuries from the storm despite sheltering in their basement. They went there after getting a storm warning on his phone.

Oullette explained the tornado picked up his house and dropped it back down again and both he and his wife were hit with debris from the aftermath. “I got hit pretty hard in the head,” he said, adding he didn’t require medical care for his injury. “My wife has cracked vertebrae and she is in the hospital getting treated.”

“We were in the cellar,” he continued, noting it was scary when the house was lifted from the ground. “I could see daylight all around me.”

The councilman was working with a cleanup crew when he was contacted by a reporter Saturday, with the sounds of men yelling and chainsaws screaming in the background. He expressed admiration and gratitude for the solidarity of his community. “The volunteers, law enforcement, churches, EMS and even sports teams have showed up and they are all pulling together,” the councilman stated. “It’s worth seeing.”

Michigan State Police issued an alert about downed power lines obstructing roadways in a Friday Twitter post.

“Trees and power lines blocking roadways,” police announced. “Multiple homes and businesses damaged. Avoid the Gaylord area. Emergency crews are responding.” A Saturday email to MSP spokeswoman Shannon Banner for an update on road conditions was not immediately returned.

The lower peninsula city of Gaylord, Mich., is a small tourist town that swells from 4,000 in winter to 15,000 when the weather turns nice, Oullette said.

NOTE: The article has been edited to correct the location of Gaylord by identifying it as a city in the lower peninsula. It had previously indicated the city was in the upper peninsula.

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