1 dead, 44 injured as Whitmer signs emergency declaration

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One person is dead and at least 44 injured after a rare tornado hammered the northern Michigan city of Gaylord late Friday afternoon.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a declaration of a state of emergency and made the announcement from the scene of the disaster this evening, from where she called “the heart of northern Michigan” as she visited with residents and officials.

FOX 2’s Randy Wimbley has learned the tornado touched down at 3:44 p.m. just west of Gaylord in a mobile home community, then moved into the main business strip, damaging a path of businesses, buildings, homes and cars.

“By declaring a state of emergency we are making available all state resources in cooperation with local response and recovery efforts,” Whitmer said.”A declaration authorizes the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security to coordinate our state effort – above and beyond what MSP has already been doing in conjunction with these phenomenal local agencies.”

As FOX 2 arrived at the scene, power lines were seen down everywhere, trees, branches down, and a number of homes severely damaged.

Resident Kevin Donahue was at a store with his wife at the time of the twister.

“We didn’t hear anything, until the building came apart,” he said. “And then we just got in the back, the building came apart and a blast of air hit (my wife), something flew and knocked her right off her feet.

“As soon as we looked into the store, it was just mayhem.it blew the whole front door off, the front part of the building, tore half of the roof off. And then all around us, was just devastation. The building is just completely gone.”  

Authorities want people to avoid the area – if you had plans to come up this weekend, reschedule it and visit somewhere else. They don’t want people coming to this area of first responders working to secure different roadways areas that are blocked off because of those down wires and trees.

Officials also want people to be aware that for residents in the area, cell towers are down, creating limited cell phone coverage and reliability and connection. Authorities are asking residents there to only use their cell phones if they have to call 911 in an emergency.

Among the 44 injured that have been reported thus far, officials say many of them are in critical condition.

The hospital in the area is running on reserve power where the majority of the injured are being treated. A few of the injured residents are getting help from three other hospitals in the surrounding area.  

Photo: Michigan State Police

Stay with FOX 2 for more from this developing story.

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