Gov. Whitmer requests disaster declaration after Gaylord tornado

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked President Joe Biden on Wednesday to issue a major disaster declaration for Otsego County after a tornado hit on May 20. 

The request came at the end of an in-depth assessment of damage to the Gaylord area by the Michigan State Police’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, the governor's office said.

"We are doing everything in our power to secure all available assistance for the people of Gaylord as quickly as possible," Whitmer said Wednesday in a statement. "A presidential declaration would open up additional federal resources necessary to help the Gaylord community recover.

"Tough times call for tough people, and I know that the Michiganders in Gaylord will get through this. Let’s keep working together to support all of the ongoing efforts to recover and rebuild," the Democratic governor added.

Whitmer asked for supplementary federal aid in the form of individual assistance to help eligible residents, according to the governor's office. If federal aid were granted, assistance could include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help people and businesses recover from the tornado's effects.

The tornado was an EF3 with winds reaching 150 mph, according to the National Weather Service. It was on the ground for almost 18 miles with a maximum width of 200 yards, according to Whitmer's letter to Biden seeking the federal declaration.

"Up until now, Gaylord never sustained a direct hit from a confirmed tornado," Whitmer's letter said.

A child's toy sits in a destroyed yard as assessors from the Michigan State Police, the Federal Emergency Management Agency the U.S. Small Business Administration and local officials were in Gaylord, MI. to assess damage to the Nottingham Forest mobile home park Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Damage from a tornado Friday, May 20, 2022 caused two deaths and over 40 others injured.

It was also the strongest tornado recorded in the state of Michigan since 2012, the governor said.

There were two confirmed deaths caused by the tornado: two individuals in their 70s who were discovered at a mobile home park in Bagley Township. Forty-four residents were injured, requiring treatment at area hospitals, because of the tornado, Whitmer's letter added.

cmauger@detroitnews.com