Rare tornado hits northern Michigan town, injuring some

GAYLORD, Mich. (AP) — A rare tornado ripped through a small northern Michigan community on Friday, inflicting injuries, flipping vehicles, ripping roofs off buildings and causing other damage.

State police said ambulances took injured people to hospitals after the tornado passed through Gaylord, a town of about 4,200 people about 370 miles northwest of Detroit. No deaths have been confirmed, the agency said.

Eddie Thrasher, 55, said he was sitting…

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GAYLORD, Mich. (AP) — A rare tornado ripped through a small northern Michigan community on Friday, inflicting injuries, flipping vehicles, ripping roofs off buildings and causing other damage.

State police said ambulances took injured people to hospitals after the tornado passed through Gaylord, a town of about 4,200 people about 370 miles northwest of Detroit. No deaths have been confirmed, the agency said.

Eddie Thrasher, 55, said he was sitting in his car outside an auto parts store when the tornado appeared above him.

“There are roofs ripped off businesses, a row of industrial-type warehouses,” Thrasher said. “Motorhomes were overturned and destroyed. There were a lot of emergency vehicles coming from the east end of town.

He said he ran into the store to get out.

“My adrenaline was going crazy,” Thrasher said. “In less than five minutes, it was over.”

The tornado, which passed through the city around 3:45 p.m., damaged several homes and downed trees and power lines that blocked roads, authorities said. Footage shared on social media showed several RVs being shredded in a parking lot.

Mike Klepadlo, owner of Alter-Start North, an auto repair shop, said he and his employees hid in a bathroom.

“I’m lucky to be alive. He blew up the back of the building,” he said. “Twenty feet (6 meters) of the back wall is gone. The whole roof is missing. At least half of the building is still there. It’s bad.”

Video posted to social media showed extensive damage along the main street of Gaylord. A building appeared to be largely collapsed and a Goodwill store was badly damaged. A collapsed utility pole lay on the side of the road and debris, including what appeared to be electrical wires and parts of a Marathon gas station, was strewn all along the street.

Otsego Memorial Hospital was undamaged but was running on a generator, spokesman Brian Lawson said.

He said he did not know how many injured were being treated in hospital. The Red Cross, meanwhile, set up a shelter in a church.

Jim Keysor, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Gaylord, said extreme winds are rare in that part of Michigan because the Great Lakes suck up storm energy, especially in early spring when the lakes are very cold.

“Many children and young adults would never have experienced direct severe weather if they had lived in Gaylord all their lives,” he said.

The last time Gaylord had a severe windstorm was in 1998, when straight-line winds reached 100 mph, Keysor said.

Brandie Slough, 42, said she and a teenage daughter sought safety in a Culver’s toilet. The fast food outlet’s windows were blown out as they exited and his van was flipped onto its roof in the parking lot.

“We shook our heads in disbelief, but thankful to be safe. At this point, who cares about the truck,” Slough said.

Gaylord, known as the ‘Alpine Village’, is due to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, with a centenary celebration that will include a parade and an open day at Town Hall later this summer.

The community also hosts the annual Alpenfest in July, an Alpine-inspired celebration honoring the city’s heritage and partnering with a sister city in Switzerland.

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White reported from Detroit. AP reporters Corey Williams in Detroit, Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis, Sara Burnett in Chicago and Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis contributed.

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