June 17, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tornado hits northern Michigan; storms in West Michigan overnight could bring heavy rain, 60 mph winds

Mark Whelpleyworks to remove a fallen tree on Tuesday in Fruitland Township, Mich. The National Weather Service says severe thunderstorms passing across Michigan's Lower Peninsula have triggered a funnel cloud sighting and a suspected tornado. (KEN STEVENS / AP)

West Michigan could face severe storms with the potential of 60 mph wind gusts and heavy rain overnight, the National Weather Service said.

The storms were moving east from Wisconsin and expected by dawn, said meteorologist Jared Maples of the NWS office in Grand Rapids.

As much as 1-2 inches of rain could fall in spots, he said.

The system follows a day of stormy weather as a wave of severe thunderstorms passed through northern lower Michigan, knocking down trees, blocking some roads and even spawning a tornado.

Meanwhile, heat was the story in Metro Detroit. Temperatures at Detroit Metro Airport hit 90 degrees, some 10 degrees above average, according to weather service data.

As the warmth washed over the region, about 18,000 DTE customers lost electricity. Some 6,000 remained without power early Wednesday, spokeswoman Erica Donerson said.

The outages were believed to have been linked to equipment issues, she said.

“The heat may have exacerbated the equipment issues, but they were not the sole cause of the outages,” she said.

On Tuesday, a tornado hit about noon in Hale, an unincorporated community in Iosco County’s Plainfield Township about 55 miles north of Bay City in the northern Lower Peninsula, the weather service said. There were no reported injuries.

The tornado was on the ground about 2 minutes with maximum winds of 100 mph, the weather service said.

Alward’s Market in Hale had its front windows blown out and lost most of the shingles from its side and front overhang, owner Bob Alward told the Bay City Times. He said only a few people were inside the store at the time.

“It didn’t sound that loud,” Alward said. “I was standing in the back of the store with the door wide open and was watching it. Then I saw some trees start to lay down at the property down from me and knew something wasn’t good. I slammed the door and by the time I got to the front, it had already passed. It only lasted 5 to 10 seconds.”

A funnel cloud was sighted in Ogemaw County about 11:40 a.m., the weather service said. The site was about 8 miles east-southeast of West Branch.

Winds gusting up to 60 mph knocked down trees, blocking a highway in Crawford County, the weather service said.

According to the weather service, there’s a 60 percent chance of strong thunderstorms Wednesday.

“They could be severe,” meteorologist Matt Mosteiko said. “We’ll have hot humid air meeting a cold front. The storm system is expected to move into Wednesday night and then drop off.”

The forecast highs for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are 86, 78 and 80 degrees, respectively.

Linda Mixter holds her dog Sadie as she watches crews remove fallen trees. (KEN STEVENS / AP)