A devastating onslaught of severe weather in Michigan has spawned a series of tornadoes, resulting in a tragic loss of life, widespread power outages, and extensive damage. As the tempestuous conditions unfolded, at least six tornadoes struck the state, claiming five lives and plunging hundreds of thousands of residents into darkness.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in the United States, on Friday, confirmed the occurrence of a tornado with wind speeds reaching 145 kilometers per hour (90 miles per hour). This twister crossed from Michigan’s Ingham County into the western fringe of neighboring Livingston County on Thursday night.
This tornado earned a classification of EF-1 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which designates it as a moderate tornado. Additionally, four other EF-1 tornadoes were documented in various locations, including Bellville and Gibraltar in Wayne County, as well as near South Rockwood and Newport in Monroe County.
A less powerful EF-0 tornado, featuring peak winds of 128 km/h (80 mph), was active for a brief span of under 3.2 km (approximately two miles) in Wayne County’s Canton Township, situated west of Detroit. Meteorologist Sara Schultz revealed that this tornado caused a tree to topple onto a residential structure.
Officials at the weather service’s Grand Rapids office shared that they would embark on damage surveys to assess the impact of a suspected tornado in Kent County.
Tragedy unfolded in Kent County, where a 21-year-old woman and two young girls aged one and three lost their lives after their car collided with an SUV. The driver of the car, a 22-year-old man, sustained serious injuries, while the SUV driver incurred minor injuries.
Lansing, the state capital, also bore the brunt of the storm’s fury. An 84-year-old woman met a tragic end when a falling tree struck her home. Despite firefighters’ efforts to rescue her, she was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
In Ingham County, the sheriff’s office reported a confirmed fatality and several severe injuries. More than 25 vehicles were severely damaged along Interstate 96, although it remained unclear whether the storm or a subsequent collision was responsible.
In Southfield, a suburb of Detroit, a resident recounted the harrowing experience of a massive portion of a neighbor’s tree crashing onto his property, resembling the sound of a freight train. The tree’s collapse led to power lines falling and impacting vehicles, leaving residents without electricity.
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans declared a state of emergency in Michigan’s largest county, encompassing Detroit. The declaration was prompted by widespread power outages, flooding, fallen trees, and debris strewn by the storm. Residents were also cautioned about potential untreated wastewater discharge into water bodies due to flooding in municipalities.
As the tempestuous conditions continued, over 390,000 customers in Michigan and more than 120,000 in Ohio were grappling with power outages, as reported by the Poweroutage.us website.
These tumultuous storms followed a previous bout of heavy rainfall that drenched southeastern Michigan with over 12.7 centimeters (5 inches) of precipitation by Thursday morning. The resultant street flooding compounded the region’s challenges.