Tornado threat gone, but high winds in forecast

Holly Fournier, Tom Greenwood and Candice Williams
The Detroit News

The National Weather Service has canceled a tornado watch for much of Metro Detroit but strong winds and rain remain in the forecast.

A wind advisory is in effect for Metro Detroit 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday.

Wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour could cause falling tree branches and sporadic power outages, according to the National Weather Service.

The tornado watch was in effect until 11 p.m. for Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Livingston, Lenawee and Washtenaw counties but "the threat has shifted east," said Dan Thompson, a meteorologist with the NWS station in White Lake Township. "We are watching a cluster of storms out near the Chicago area. We do have a cold front moving through, but we can't rule out some showers and storms developing later on tonight."

And although forecasters had expected a lingering stretch of severe weather through early Friday, "right now, I'd say it's more unlikely," Thompson said. "The severe weather threat has diminished."

Tornado warnings earlier for northwest Lenawee and Washtenaw expired Thursday night. Curtis Parsons Jr., coordinator at the Lenawee County Department of Emergency Management, said authorities had no reports of damage or weather-related issues but still were on alert and advising residents to do the same.

"Everybody is kind of on a heightened level of awareness for the rest of the evening," he said.

Marc Breckenridge, emergency services director for the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, said the storm left some minor street flooding in spots but no significant wind damage or other issues. "We were spared this time out," he said.

That's a turnaround from early Thursday, when a Southfield homeowner escaped injury after lightning struck a tree outside her home.

Later in the day, the rain delayed for four hours the Detroit Tigers games against Minnesota.

Homeowner Theresa Bullock, 61, said she was preparing to get up for work when the lightning struck her home on the 29000 block of Woodcrest Court.

"I saw a big light, like a fireball, then heard a big explosion," she said. "Then my house started shaking."

Bullock immediately used the light on her cellphone to check her bedroom, located toward the back of the house. It was undamaged, so she headed toward the front door.

"The whole front of my house was blown out, and all the windows," she said.

Bullock said she was making her way around broken glass though the dark home when she heard a neighbor call out, asking if she was OK.

"He got me out of the house, through the tree and the glass," she said.

Once outside, Bullock saw the damage to the tree.

"It actually exploded," she said. "The debris (was) sent throughout this cul-de-sac."

Bullock said she is thankful her neighbor was so quick to help.

"Thank God for good neighbors," she said. "He was there to help me and stay with me until my sons got here."

Bullock said she's also lucky to avoid serious injury.

"All this other stuff is replaceable," she said. "It's going to be a process putting my house back together but I'm safe."

Neighbor Robert Frye, 68, said he rushed across the street to Bullock's home, still in his pajamas.

Frye urged Bullock to get out of the house when he smelled electrical burning from inside the home. He also was afraid of a possible gas leak, he said.

"I moved (a branch) so we could open the door, and helped her through the tree," he said. "We found a little route out."

Frye said he is amazed no other homes were damaged by flying debris. Two large branches came to rest on either side of his home, he said.

"When you see how far that debris went, and it missed everything," he said.

Frank Bullock said he got a call from his mother around 5:30 a.m.

"By the noise, she thought the house had blown up," said Bullock, 47. "I rushed over and saw the damage."

A large tree splintered into pieces and fell against the roof after it was hit by lightning just feet from the front of the home, causing extensive damage and knocking photographs off the wall, Frank Bullock said.

"All the windows in the front are blown out, we got a couple pieces of wood that are inside and there's glass everywhere," he said. "It actually knocked the electricity out so she doesn't have any lights."

Frank Bullock said the fire department was first to arrive on scene. Authorities cut water to the residence after discovering a hole in a utility room pipe.

"We don't know how (it happened)," Bullock said of the hole. "But maybe it was the vibrations. It wasn't there before."

Officials also cut power to the house to be safe, he said.

Bullock said his mother, who has lived in the home for about 15 years, is coordinating with her insurance company, contractors and a tree removal company to begin piecing the house back together.

Meanwhile, neighbors worked together Thursday morning to gather debris scattered in the street after the lightning strike.

Despite the damage, Bullock said he's thankful his mother was not hurt.

"Getting a call at 5:30 a.m. from your mother is never good," he said. "It was a very close call."

(313) 223-4616

Staff Writer Tom Greenwood contributed.

Extended forecast

Thursday night: A chance of showers between midnight and 5 a.m.

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of near 58. Windy with gusts as high as 40 mph.

Friday night. Partly cloudy with a low of about 38. Winds with gusts of up to 23 mph.

Saturday: Sunny with a high of about 54. Wind gusts of up to 18 mph.

Saturday night: Mostly clear with a low of about 37.

Sunday: Sunny with a high near 57.

Sunday night: A chance of showers with a low of about 46.

Monday: A chance of showers with a high near 64.

Monday night: Partly cloudy with a low of around 44.

Tuesday: Partly sunny with a high near 61.

Tuesday night: Mostly cloudy with a low of about 46.