Jack Elliott stands beside his van that was struck by a tree during a tornado in Gaylord, Mich., Friday, May 20, 2022. Elliott was inside his house during the storm and was uninjured. (AP Photo/John Flesher)

Police report 2nd death from tornado in northern Michigan

GAYLORD, Mich. — A second person died in a tornado that hit northern Michigan, authorities reported Saturday, as crews searched a mobile home park that was virtually destroyed by the rare weather event.

The person, who was in their 70s, lived in the Nottingham mobile home park, which was among the first sites hit by the tornado Friday, said state police Lt. Derrick Carroll.

“There have been trailers picked up and turned over on top of each other. Just a very large debris field,” said Chris Martin, Otsego County fire chief. “Crews are in there right now doing a secondary search with heavy equipment.”

He said there’s “probably 95% destruction in there.”

The tornado struck Gaylord, a city of about 4,200 people, roughly 230 miles (370 kilometers) northwest of Detroit.

More than 40 people were injured.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for the county, making further state resources available.

Gaylord Police Chief Frank Claeys said the immediate moments after the tornado were tough for first responders.

“We were searching in places where we knew the occupants. We were calling them out by name,” Claeys said. “It’s a lot more personal when our officers know the people who live in those homes.”

Extreme spring winds are uncommon in the area because the Great Lakes suck energy out of storms, especially early in the season when the lakes are very cold, said Jim Keysor, a Gaylord-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“Many kids and young adults would have never experienced any direct severe weather if they had lived in Gaylord their entire lives,” he said.