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'I went flying with my wife;’ Residents share stories of tornado terror in Gaylord

National Weather Service said mobile home park was hardest hit portion of city, 95% destroyed
Charles Mills survived Gaylord tornado
Helping Gaylord tornado victims
Gaylord tornado damage
Gaylord tornado
Gaylord tornado
Gaylord tornado
Gaylord tornado
Posted at 12:17 PM, May 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-22 12:17:45-04

GAYLORD, Mich. — It was an emotional Saturday in Gaylord, as people who live and work in the area got to go back inside city limits and see the damage left behind by Friday's tornado.

The National Weather Service gave the tornado an EF3 rating and measured wind speeds hitting 150 m.p.h. The tornado moved through the city at 55 m.p.h., and only took three minutes to create all that devastation.

'It was just total devastation': Gaylord community reflects on tornado damage

One NWS official said it was "by far the worst tornado we've ever seen in this area."

It tore apart businesses, flipped over cars, pushed down power lines and left an entire city hurting.

READ MORE: NWS: Gaylord tornado rated an EF3, max winds of 150 mph

NWS said the hardest hit area was the Nottingham Forest Mobile Home Park on the west end of town, which was also the first part of Gaylord the tornado hit.

NWS report on Gaylord tornado

Officials said, of the 70 homes in that mobile home park, about 95% are destroyed.

“We need help," said Loreine Webber, one of the many people in that park who lost their home. "I’m devastated. Everybody’s devastated. Heartbroken. There’s too much loss here. It’s not fair.”

Gaylord tornado damage

When describing the scene as the tornado moved through the area, she said, “It was just nothing but screams and terror. We all thought we were going to die.”

PHOTOS: DAMAGE REPORTED IN GAYLORD AFTER TORNADO TOUCHES DOWN

The storm turned deadly, killing at least two people and sending at least 44 others to the hospital. Michigan State Police confirmed both the deaths originated at Nottingham Forest. Both people were in their 70s.

Tornado Damage

Webber was working at Goodwill when the tornado ripped through the small town, with a population of just more than 4,000.

Some people, including Charles Mills, were inside their mobile homes when it happened.

“The walls started coming in like that right toward me and I went flying with my wife," he told FOX 17. "I ended up on top of here. There was a fella who dug us out and got it off of us and all that stuff.”

Charles Mills survived Gaylord tornado

Others were nervous to go back and see the damage.

Taylor Morrison, who has three young children, said, “My daughter just wants her toys. She has no toys left that I can give her, and they don’t really understand that we can’t go back home.”

The storm left about 6,500 Consumers Energy customers without power.

Krista Gault who lives in Gaylord, said, “We don’t have electricity. We don’t have our phones. We don’t have the necessities that all of us are used to.”

Consumers Energy officials said they had 100 crews made up of 350 on the scene to restore power to the area.

READ MORE: Lt. Gov. tours Otsego Co. tornado damage, recovery efforts

Fortunately for Gault, power was the only thing she lost. The same can't be said for so many others.

Tornado Damage

However, in the middle of all this devastation, there is hope.

E-Free Church in Gaylord turned into a disaster relief center. United Way provided clothes, the Red Cross provided shelter and the Eastern Michigan Food Bank provided a truckload of meals.

Helping Gaylord tornado victims

The entire effort provided a light in the darkness.

Scott Distler, the church's lead Pastor, said, “People around here care for each other. When things like this happens, that just escalates.”

The future of Gaylord is up in the air. The road ahead is going to be a long one, no doubt.

That's especially the case for Webber, and other people who called Nottingham Forest home.

“A lot of us couldn’t get insurance on them because the homes are too old," Webber said. "So we’re kind of stuck in limbo right now. I feel lost. I’m sure the rest do too.”

Gaylord tornado

Still, the members of this close-knit community are confident they can rebuild because they say, they'll be doing it together.
Gault said, “We’ll pull through this. We’re Gaylord.”

Webber added, “That’s a given in Gaylord. The community is always there for each other. It’s there. It’s not like most places.”