Tornado damages 70 homes in Shiawassee County

Sarah Rahal Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
A tornado that touched down in Vernon at about 7:03 p.m. Thursday is likely the same twister that was spotted in nearby Durand at about 7:05 p.m., the National Weather Service said. Patricia Rothney took this photo of the tornado spotted on Newberry Road in Durand.

The National Weather Service confirmed that one tornado touched down in Shiawassee County on Thursday and another was unconfirmed in Genesee County on a day when severe thunderstorm warnings, watches, flooding, high winds and hail characterized the weather on the warmest day of the year so far.

The severe weather was replaced early Friday by a hazardous weather outlook that covered southeast and southwest Michigan. Scattered thunderstorms were expected to move across the region, with some storms turning severe, the National Weather Service said. An isolated tornado is possible in southeast Michigan "especially toward the southern Michigan border."

The storm's motion was expected to be southwest to northeast at 60 mph. Brief wind gusts of 40-45 mph also were expected Friday evening as colder air returned to the state.

Temperatures Thursday climbed to their highest of the year so far. Detroit Metro Airport recorded 58 degrees just after noon Thursday. That fell well short of the record of 77 set in 1990, weather service data showed.

Tornadoes, spawned by Thursday's lingering severe weather, were reported to have hit parts of southeast Michigan. In Vernon, in Shiawassee County, a tornado was confirmed to have touched down at 7:03 p.m., the National Weather Service reported. The same tornado is believed to have touched down in nearby Durand at about 7:05 p.m., the weather service said.

Michigan State Police said first-responders confirmed that at least 70 homes were damaged.

A Twitter user, Joey Stinson, said the twister left his home with a new skylight.

"As you can see I have no roof," he said in a video.

Power lines also fell, weather service meteorologist Sara Pampreen said.

An unconfirmed twister, in Flushing, near Flint in Genesee County, was reported to have touched down at 7:12 p.m., the weather service said. "Flattened and widespread roof damage in  area," a notice on reported.  Another unconfirmed twister in Durand in Shiawassee County, was reported to have blown a roof off a house at about 7:05 p.m.

The National Weather Service said that it expected to determine Friday whether all three incidents were tornado touch downs.

Michigan State Police reported on Twitter that a storm "just blew through Clawson and Troy" on Thursday night. MSP reported "lots of lightning and thunder and winds were a serious business."

MSP's Bay Region Twitter report said Flint Post troopers were going "door to door" checking on residents affected by the tornado that may have hit the area.

Wind damage also was reported: in Mount Morris in Genesee County, three trailers were damaged by what is believed to have been straight-line winds, the weather service said. One of the trailers was blown off its foundation.

Trees were toppled in Clinton Township, and electrical wires snapped in Sterling Heights, and a porch roof blew off in Tuscola County, the weather service reported.

In Newaygo County, road closures due to flooding were reported after 1.5 inches of rain combined with snowmelt due to warming. Fremont, reported at about 6 p.m. that a home and vehicles were surrounded by moving water. In Stanton, in Montclam County, "numerous roads" were underwater at about 6:12 p.m. Further west, in Montague, heavy rain left standing water in yards at about 6 p.m., according to the weather service's local storm reports. 

Hail was reported throughout southeast Michigan, from a quarter-inch to almost an inch.

Friday temperatures are expected to reach only into the low 40s in southeast Michigan, with a chance of rain throughout the day, according to the weather service. The lows will fall to the upper 20s.

Detroit News Staff Writer James David Dickson contributed.