A tornado has been reported in northern Gaylord, Michigan, killing one person, causing dozens of injuries and leveling buildings, officials said. The tornado in Otsego County touched down Friday afternoon, May 20, 2022, and ripped through a commercial area.
Michigan State Police said in a statement that at least one person was killed and 44 people were treated for injuries at a local hospital.
“Patients have been taken to Otsego Memorial Hospital (OMH) in Gaylord, Grayling Hospital, and McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey. At this time we can confirm 23 patients were treated at OMH. We have one confirmed dead at this time,” MSP wrote on Twitter, and said an additional 20 people were treated at other hospitals.
Michigan State Police confirmed the tornado touched down in Ostego County. Lt. Jim Gorno of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources told CNN the tornado caused “catastrophic” damage. Gaylord is located in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. First responders were continuing to assess the damage in the early hours after the tornado hit Michigan. Gorno told CNN the tornado destroyed buildings and flipped cars.
“It is a busy downtown area, and it went right through it,” Gorno told CNN.
Police said injured people were being taken to hospitals.
The Tornado Caused ‘Catastrophic’ Damage, Officials Said & Locals Caught Videos of the Tornado & Its Aftermath
Michigan State Police said the tornado caused “heavy damage” and ambulances were taking injured people to hospitals. There were no immediate reports of deaths. A power outage map shows more than 6,500 customers are without power at 6 p.m. Eastern time.
National Weather Service meteorologist Sean Christensen told CNN the tornado touched down west of the city center near Interstate 75 and moved east-northeast.
Kenneth Hoy caught the tornado on video as he watched the storm bearing down on a local neighborhood with his dad.
“It’s coming right over here,” Hoy can be heard saying on the video.
“You can see the funnel!” he shouted over the heavy winds, and pointed at the tornado.
“Oh no!” his dad shouted in the background, and said he saw damage occurring.
The videographer said a power line was taken down and he saw a transformer blow up.
In another video, the camera panned over a commercial area, which shows a building leveled next to a Goodwill, a damaged Marathon gas station, Culver’s and other stores, buildings and restaurants. Vehicles appeared to be abandoned in the drive-thru lane for the fast food restaurant.
“There’s an upside down Silverado at Culver’s,” a first responder can be heard saying into a radio.
“There’s nothing left,” the man said, referring to another building.
The video shows first responders and others walking through the frame.
“Is everyone OK at the Goodwill?” one person asked.
Tornados Are Rare in the Area & Michigan Residents Were Preparing for Severe Weather & Thunderstorms on Friday
Gorno told CNN that tornadoes are rare in the area.
“We aren’t used to it up here,” he said. “We don’t have sirens like in other parts of the country.”
Michigan residents were preparing for severe weather, including thunderstorms, as the tornado hit Gaylord, Michigan, according to Meteorologist Blake Harms. He wrote on Twitter the morning before the tornado hit that residents throughout Michigan should be aware of severe weather headed their way May 20, 2022.
“Strong to severe thunderstorms are possible Friday, but it’s far from a guarantee. Here’s the latest,” he wrote on Twitter about 32 hours before the tornado hit Ostega County.
“A few strong to severe thunderstorms will be possible this afternoon. Not everyone will see rain, but those who do may also see damaging winds and some large hail. Timeframe for these storms is late afternoon – mid evening,” he wrote early Friday morning.
“9:00 AM UPDATE: The SPC has shifted the “slight risk” area north of Lansing. Not a total surprise – best ingredients appear to be up that way. Still, all of Lower Michigan should remain weather-aware today!” he wrote about an hour later.
At 3:45 p.m., the tone had suddenly turned serious minutes before the tornado hit.
“VERY dangerous storm about to track right into Gaylord. May well be producing a tornado,” he wrote.
“Otsego County scanner – Gaylord area – is very noisy after a damaging tornado moved through. Gas leaks being reported at damaged houses, Hobby Lobby and other businesses sustained heavy damage, injuries being reported,” Harms wrote on Twitter.
He shared a photo of a radar image which showed the tornado closing in on the city.
“Gaylord needs some prayers right now, folks. Likely a damaging tornado making a near-direct impact on the city,” he wrote.
9 and 10 News reported a new tornado warning had been issued for Presque Isle County shortly before 5 p.m.
Michigan State Police told the news outlet trees and power lines were blocking roads in the Gaylord area, multiple gas leaks were reported and 6,000 people were without power. Multiple homes and businesses are damaged, police said. Police asked the public to avoid the area.
Gov. Gretchen Witmer wrote in a statement on Twitter that they would rebuild.
“To the entire Gaylord community — Michigan is with you. We will do what it takes to rebuild,” she wrote.