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Rare tornado batters Michigan town

A tornado that hammered a town in northern Michigan has injured at least 23 people and killed at least one person.

The tornado tore through Gaylord, a city of about 4,200 roughly 370 kilometres northwest of Detroit at around 3:45 pm on Friday.

Munson Healthcare spokesman Brian Lawson said the pace of people being brought to Gaylord-Otsego Memorial Hospital had slowed since the hours right after the storm.

“From what I’m gathering things have stabilised a bit,” he said.

Otsego Memorial Hospital was not damaged but was running on generator power, Lawson said.

The rare tornado also flipped vehicles, ripped roofs off buildings and downed trees and power lines, blocking roads, authorities said.

Mike Klepadlo, owner of Alter-Start North, a car repair shop, said he and his workers took cover in a bathroom.

“I’m lucky I’m alive. It blew the back off the building,” he said. “Twenty feet (6 metres) of the back wall is gone. The whole roof is missing. At least half the building is still here. It’s bad.”

Eddie Thrasher was sitting in his car when he says the twister seemed to appear above him.

He said he ran into a store to ride it out.

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

Video posted on social media showed extensive damage along Gaylord’s Main Street.

One 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 scattered all along the street.

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.

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

Brandie Slough, 42, said she and a teen daughter sought safety in a restroom at a Culver’s. Windows of the fast food restaurant were blown out when they emerged, and her pickup truck had been flipped on its roof in the parking lot.

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

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