Tornadoes hit Michigan; 'We should be dead'
The series of thunderstorms that drenched southern Michigan Monday night and Tuesday morning spawned several tornadoes and left as many as 48,000 homes and businesses without power.
The twisters produced no serious injuries but a number of homes and businesses were reportedly damaged by the storms that pummeled the area largely between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.
On Tuesday, assessment teams from the National Weather Service will inspect areas where tornadoes are believed to have touched down, according to meteorologist Mike Richter, working out of the White Lake Township station.
"A lot of it depends on how those particular cells struck down," Richter said. "Did they skip in several spots or were there longer tracks?"
The National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-2 level tornado that started east of Birch Run in Saginaw County at 10:01 p.m. Monday and lifted two miles south of Millington in Tuscola County at 10:17 p.m. Winds peaked at 115 miles per hour midway, said meteorologist Steven Freitag. There were two minor injuries reported, he said.
A confirmed tornado also touched down about 5 miles from Decker in Sanilac County late Monday.
A tornado was also confirmed just outside of Manchester, southwest of Ann Arbor, in Washtenaw County. No injuries were reported. The twister reportedly occurred at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. Freitag said he was awaiting details of the second two tornadoes.
A fire official says at least four houses were damaged. A few people were treated for minor injuries.
In Manchester, Robert Preis and his family were on their way into the basement when the tornado hit their property. They had been alerted to the danger by an emergency message on his wife's phone.
"You could hear the wind change," he said. "It had that traditional 'sounds like a freight train noise.' Even being dark out, I could look out the window, and you could see the colors change."
Tuesday morning's evidence of the tornado's passage was everywhere around the Preis' yard. A large section of roof sat 20 yards away from the house after being ripped off by the wind. On the other side of the house, huge trees that had come down overnight stretched across the ground while a smoldering powerline hissed in the grass. A front side window was smashed out from cast iron lawn furniture that had been thrown through it.
No one in the family was injured.
"This can all be rebuilt," Preis said. "But it's the kids we were worried about the most."
Price's wife operates the Fun Discoveries Day Care center out of the home. That operation will now be closed on Tuesday.
"Obviously, it's gonna be awhile before we get this place rebuilt," he said. "Looks like the second floor roof has to be (replaced)."
Earlier Monday in Portland, near Lansing, five people were rescued from buildings after a tornado hit, damaging a Rite-Aid pharmacy and a Goodwill store.
A mother and two small children inside the used items store were trapped for about 10 minutes after the storm rolled through mid-afternoon, said John Baker, chief of the Portland Area Fire Authority.
Two others were helped from the pharmacy. The storm also overturned recreational and utility trailers and toppled some small garages.
"We were very, very fortunate," Baker told reporters. "We have had no fatalities reported at this time. Minimal injuries — cuts and bruises. We have had no one — repeat no one — transported to the hospital."
On Tuesday morning, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was among dozens of Portland residents who helped clean up the athletic grounds of St. Patrick Catholic Church. The church building was unscathed by Monday's tornado, but the storm toppled a couple of sheds in the athletic complex.
As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, DTE Energy reported that the number of clients without power had been reduced to 30,000. The utility expects to release new outage numbers later Tuesday afternoon.
"Western Wayne County was the hardest hit," DTE spokesman Scott Simons said. "The problem was high winds, which brought down tree limbs and power lines. Our crews can handle it, so we won't be bringing in outside help. The majority of our customers should be back online by late today."
As of 2:30 p.m. the Consumers Energy unit of Jackson-based CMS reported that 6,330 of its customers remained without service, down from 11,000.
The power company said it anticipated having power fully restored by about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.
According to the NWS, the storms on average dropped 1 to 2 inches of rain on southeastern Michigan, including 2 inches in Burden (near Flint) and 1 1/2 inches in Commerce Township and Ann Arbor.
Meteorologists said the strongest storm cells hit Saginaw County between 10 p.m. Monday and midnight and then moved south to drench the metro area.
"The storm funneled south from Saginaw County and spawned a tornado in Washtenaw County at about 1:30 a.m.," Richter said. "The strongest part of the storm hit the metro area between midnight and 3 a.m. The display of lightning was really spectacular."
Portions of Interstate 94 in Detroit, along with ramps from I-75 to I-94, had flooding Tuesday morning that delayed motorists.
Flood warnings are in effect for some rivers in the southern Lower Peninsula. The National Weather Service issued advisories for the Looking Glass River in Clinton County, saying homes along the river outside of Lansing could be affected by high water. Flood warnings also included portions of Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Eaton, Ingham, Jackson and Van Buren counties.
According to the NWS, there are no flood watches or advisories posted for southeastern Michigan.
Authorities say the storms packing high winds also overturned a recreational vehicle and downed trees in Saginaw County. The damage happened Monday at The Pine Ridge RV Campground in Birch Run Township as severe weather moved across the state.
Jeff Cross, who has been living at the RV park, says he heard "a freight train noise" before looking out a window and seeing a tree fall on a neighbor's RV. Cross' truck was nearly struck by a downed tree. One RV was flipped on its side with a tree rested on it and another had a tree fall on top of it.
Michigan State Police Sgt. Robert Mossing says two minor injuries were reported, including a person helped from the flipped camper.
Metro Detroit should see fairer conditions Tuesday.
"Tuesday will be much nicer than Monday," meteorologist Sara Schultz said. "We'll dry out tomorrow with sunny skies, a slight breeze and a high of around 82."
Staff Writers Chad Livengood, Candice Williams and The Associated Press contributed.
Tuesday: Sunny with a high near 77. Wind gusts up to 21 mph.
Tuesday night: Mostly clear with a low of about 56.
Wednesday: Mostly sunny with a high near 78.
Wednesday night: There is a 30 percent chance of showers with a low of about 62.
Thursday: There is a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. The high will be near 73.
Thursday night: There is a 50 percent chance of rain with a low of about 58 degrees.
Friday: Partly sunny with a high near 74.
Friday night: Mostly cloudy with a low of 58.
Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high near 74.
Saturday night: Partly cloudy with a low of around 56.