At least 1 killed, dozens injured after tornado tears through northern Michigan town

GAYLORD, Mich. — A tornado tore through a small northern Michigan community on Friday, killing at least one person and injuring at least 40 others as it flipped vehicles, tore the roofs off of buildings, and downed trees and power lines.

"It just touched down at around 3:45 and just went right through town," said Sean Christensen, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

The tornado struck Gaylord, a community of roughly 4,200 people about 230 miles northwest of Detroit. Michigan State Police announced an overnight curfew and asked residents to shelter in place on Friday night. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Ostego County.

Brian Lawson, a spokesman for Munson Healthcare, said Gaylord-Otsego Memorial Hospital was treating 23 people who were injured by the tornado and that one person was killed. He didn’t know the conditions of the injured or the name of the person who died. Lawson said the pace of people being brought to the hospital had slowed by Friday evening.

The Michigan State Patrol confirmed that one person was killed, saying in a tweet that more than 40 others were hurt and being treated at area hospitals. The patrol planned to hold a briefing Saturday morning.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Mayor Todd Sharrard said. “I’m numb.” The roof of a Hobby Lobby was ripped off, and the town was eerily empty Friday night. Traffic lights stopped working and emergency vehicles are the only ones around.

Gaylord residents were walking around, stunned. Severe weather is unusual in the region. Jim Keysor, a Gaylord-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said extreme winds are uncommon in that part of Michigan because the Great Lakes suck energy out of storms, especially early in spring when the lakes are very cold.

"Many kids and young adults would have never experienced any direct severe weather if they had lived in Gaylord their entire lives,” he said.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a tweet her heart goes out to the families and businesses that have been hurt by the tornado.

Eddie Thrasher, 55, said he was sitting in his car outside an auto parts store when the twister seemed to appear above him.

"There are roofs ripped off businesses, a row of industrial-type warehouses," Thrasher said. "RVs were flipped upside down and destroyed. There were a lot of emergency vehicles heading from the east side of town."