At least 2 dead, 44 injured after tornado strikes northern Michigan

Two people are dead, multiple people were injured and "heavy damage" reported after a destructive tornado tore through northern Michigan Friday afternoon, authorities said.

The National Weather Service said the tornado has been given a preliminary rating of EF-3. Peak winds were estimated to be up to 140 mph.

6,500 homes are without power in Gaylord with some also without power in the surrounding area, Lt. Derrick Carroll, PIO with the Michigan State Police, said at a press conference Saturday.

"The area is not safe we are in the process of stabilizing it," Carroll said, urging those affected to stay at home and shelter in place.

In addition to the two dead, 44 are injured and one person is still unaccounted for after a tornado hit the Gaylord, Michigan area. The two people who died were in their 70s and both lived in a mobile home park, Carroll said.

The tornado touched down on Friday at 3:48 p.m., near Nottingham Forest, a mobile home park, and continued along the M-32 Highway through the Gaylord business area, causing "extensive damage" to other commercial and residential structures in the tornado's path, Carroll said.

Otsego County Fire Chief Chris Martin added that about 95% of the mobile home park has been destroyed, with "trailers picked up and turned over on top of each other."

The tornado warning code red alert sent out gave people in the Gaylord area about 10 minutes to prepare, John Boris, Science and Operations Officer with the National Weather Service, said.

Data collected by the NWS suggests that the tornado was on the ground for 26 minutes, with the storm moving at about 55 mph. It moved east through Gaylord before hading north, according to Boris.

As of Friday, the injured were being treated at four separate hospitals. 23 patients have been admitted at Otsego Memorial Hospital, 12 patients at Grayling Hospital, eight patients at McLaren Northern Michigan Petoskey, and one patient Munson Medical Center Traverse City.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a declaration of emergency for Otsego County on Friday night.

"Michiganders are tough. We are resilient. We will do what it takes to rebuild. There's no challenge we can't get through together," she said on Twitter.

Michigan State Police for the Seventh District confirmed that a tornado touched down in Otsego County.

"Trees and power lines blocking roadways. Multiple homes and businesses damaged," the agency said on Twitter. "Avoid the Gaylord area. Emergency crews are responding."

Images from the scene showed leveled buildings, damaged roofs on businesses, downed trees and cars flipped over.

"My heart goes out to the families and small businesses impacted by the tornado and severe weather in Gaylord," Whitmer said on Twitter. "To the entire Gaylord community -- Michigan is with you. We will do what it takes to rebuild."

William Gretsky and Victoria Arancio contributed to this report.
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