Storms packing damaging winds spawn tornado in Michigan

Storms carrying powerful winds and heavy rain spawned at least one tornado in Michigan, knocked out power to more than 240,000 homes and businesses and caused damage in several summer tourist destinations in the northern Lower Peninsula.

A tornado hit Huron County’s Owendale about 6:40 p.m. Sunday, damaging the roof of a school and knocking down trees, the National Weather Service said. Meteorologist Steven Freitag said there were no reports of injuries in the community about 95 miles north of Detroit.

Crews were expected to survey the damage Monday and determine the intensity of the tornado. A historic church in Owendale also was damaged, WEYI-TV reported, and Main Street was closed as crews worked to clean up.

In the northern Lower Peninsula, several rounds of storms started around 10 a.m. Sunday. Winds hit the Leelanau County community of Glen Arbor, where downed trees blocked some roads, as well as nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Traverse City — all popular tourist destinations.

A 47-year-old motorist had multiple injuries a tree fell on his car in Leelanau County. Authorities say rescuers carried him to a boat, which took him across Glen Lake to an ambulance, MLive.com reported.

In Traverse City, where about 70 mph winds struck, a free outdoor movie was scratched. Paul Barbas, owner of Opa! Coney and Grill, was on hand to serve moviegoers. He told the Traverse City Record-Eagle that recycling bins, portable toilets and coolers were blown around.

“As you turned around, almost like a domino effect, it just started getting worse,” he said.

The largest hail was reported near West Branch, where it measured 4.25 inches — about the size of a softball — and was the biggest on record in northern Michigan since records started being kept in 1950, the weather service said. Vehicle damage was reported and smaller hail fell elsewhere.

Crews worked across the state Monday to restore power. CMS Energy Corp.’s Consumers Energy Unit said more than 150,000 were affected by Sunday’s weather, with the most damage in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties. As of midday Monday, more than 90,000 remained without service. Some of those areas may not see power restored until Thursday afternoon.

Crews from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky will be assisting on restoration efforts.

DTE Energy Co. said about 92,000 of its customers lost power late Sunday and early Monday, with outages scattered throughout southeastern Michigan. As of late Monday morning, about 63,000 were without power, including 25,000 in Huron and other Thumb-area counties and 17,000 in Wayne County.

Several thousand Traverse City Light and Power customers and Cherryland Electric Cooperative customers also lost power, the Record-Eagle reported, and some of those had power back before midday Monday.

On Sunday, the Mackinac Bridge connecting Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas was temporarily closed as winds hit 65 mph. Meanwhile, more than 2 inches of rain caused flash flooding in places.

The storms caused widespread damage in Rogers City on Sunday morning, The Alpena News reported. Winds toppled dozens of trees, which landed on homes and collapsed a large tent that’s to be used for the upcoming Nautical Festival.  (AP)

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