Suspected tornadoes hit local area

Areas of St. Joseph and Branch counties, and elsewhere in Southwest Michigan, are recovering from damage caused by a fierce storm that tore through the area late Tuesday afternoon.

Undersheriff Jason Bingaman reported power outages and widespread damage, including exceptionally heavy destruction in and around portions of Nottawa, Colon, and Leonidas townships in St. Joseph County.

A pole barn adjacent to and owned by Nottawa Gas in Centreville was leveled. In addition, its contents were damaged. Meanwhile, a portion of the roof of Nottawa Gas itself was stripped from the building. The business opened at its Centreville location last fall.

Elsewhere, witnesses reported heavy tree and structure damage off Wasepi Road in Nottawa Township, and in the area of Hodges and Colon roads in Colon Township. County officials are attempting to confirm if the damage was, in fact, the work of a tornado.

Bingaman said late Tuesday he is aware of at least three injuries, though none are life-threatening. The priority going into Tuesday night centered on making sure anyone injured is located and treated, he said.

Next, Bingaman said some people would be displaced at least Tuesday night and likely many more nights. Making sure victims of storm damage had a safe place to stay would also be a priority.

Bingaman said authorities will begin damage assessment.

National Weather Service officials will ultimately determine how to classify Tuesday’s storms.

In Kalamazoo County, the area around South Westnedge Avenue and Garden Lane was littered with electric poles, trees and an assortment of debris.

In addition, there was extensive damage to a FedEx distribution center and other building damage along the Portage Road corridor.

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