The tornado ripped through Gaylord, 230 miles northwest of Detroit, at about 3.45pm on Friday, causing multiple buildings to collapse and flipping over cars on the town’s main street.
Two people were killed and more than 40 people were injured in the town of 4,000 people the Michigan State Patrol confirmed on Twitter on Saturday morning, with multiple people treated at nearby hospitals.
Jim Keysor, a Gaylord-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) told the Associated Press that many people in Gaylord would have never seen such a extreme weather event.
Extreme winds are uncommon in north Michigan because of the Great Lakes, which suck energy out of storms.
“Many kids and young adults would have never experienced any direct severe weather if they had lived in Gaylord their entire lives,” said Mr Keysor.
Residents recalled running for shelter after receiving text alerts about the tornado earlier on Friday, with car repair shop owner Mike Klepadlo saying he and his workers took cover in a bathroom.
“I’m lucky I’m alive. It blew the back off the building,” Mr Klepadlo said. “Twenty feet (6 meters) of the back wall is gone. The whole roof is missing. At least half the building is still here. It’s bad.”
Following the tornado in Gaylord, I’ve declared a State of Emergency for Otsego County.
Michiganders are tough. We are resilient. We will do what it takes to rebuild. There’s no challenge we can’t get through together. pic.twitter.com/ulOp2GgZfc
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) May 21, 2022
A smoothie cafe worker, Emma Goodard, added:“I was crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with my seven co-workers, two of my co-workers’ parents and a lady from Door Dash coming to pick up her smoothies.”
Neighbouring businesses were among the many buildings destroyed, she said.
The Red Cross set up a shelter at a church and Michigan governor has declared a state of emergency for all of Otsego County, making further state resources available.
“To the entire Gaylord community – Michigan is with you. We will do what it takes to rebuild,” the governor tweeted.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.