Whitmer declares emergency after rare EF3 tornado leaves 2 dead, 44 injured in Gaylord

By: - May 23, 2022 3:19 pm

Lt. Gov. Gilchrist visits Gaylord, May 21, 2022 | Gilchrist office photo

A rare northern Michigan tornado ripped through the city of Gaylord just before 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, causing widespread damage, injuries and two deaths.

“My heart goes out to the families and small businesses impacted by the tornado and severe weather in Gaylord,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday, after declaring a state of emergency for Otsego County from Gaylord’s emergency operations center alongside state Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland).

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs the state of emergency for after the tornado | Whitmer office photo

“… Our state is grateful for the first responders and utility workers who are working hard to keep everyone safe. Michiganders are tough. We are resilient. And there’s no challenge we can’t get through together,” Whitmer said.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist also toured impacted areas in Gaylord on Saturday.

The last significant high-wind event in Gaylord occurred in September 1998, when 100 mph straight-line winds blew through the city of 4,200.

This time, 24 years later, a tornado with winds reaching 150 mph destroyed a 16.6-mile path through Gaylord on Friday afternoon. It was the first tornado ranked EF3 or greater since the Dexter tornado in 2012.

Two Gaylord residents, both in their 70s, were killed when Friday’s tornado hit a mobile home park. The number of injuries reported from the high-wind event is upwards of 40.

Tornados are so rare in the area that Gaylord does not have a tornado siren system; instead, residents received an alert on their phones about 10 minutes before the storm hit.

The tornado was on the ground for just under 30 minutes.

“The tornado damage in Gaylord is absolutely devastating. Brenda and I are praying for all our Gaylord neighbors,” said state Rep. Ken Borton (R-Gaylord). “ We especially pray for anyone who lost a friend or a family member — they have our deepest sympathies. We also pray for a speedy recovery for the injured.

“Police, first responders, and medical professionals in our community are working extra hard today, and we thank them for their work getting people to safety and treating the wounded.” 

Widespread damage to the area includes downed power lines and trees, roads blocked by debris, destroyed homes and businesses and extensive property damage.

On Monday, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that she is sending investigators from her department to Gaylord to investigate reported instances of price gouging following the tornado.

“Residents who are already struggling in the wake of a natural disaster must be protected from bad actors that are intent on exploiting hardship for their own gain,” Nessel said. “My department’s investigators are on the ground in Gaylord to ensure the price of goods and services are fair and not artificially inflated to take advantage of the circumstances.”

Demand for basic goods and services increases after disasters, which Nessel said scammers can take advantage of. 

“I want to thank our brave first responders, our local police officers and firefighters, as well as the Michigan State Police Troopers who have stepped up to keep people safe,” Stamas said Friday. “It is crucial for people to stay inside if possible and stay away from any downed power lines or debris. Let’s all hug our families a little tighter, and let’s all work together to rebuild and recover from this storm together.”


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.