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Gaylord woman recounts face to face encounter with storm

When the tornado touched down, many Gaylord residents were going about their afternoon as normal. Little did they know it would be anything but.
Published: May. 21, 2022 at 3:24 PM EDT
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GAYLORD, Mich. (WNEM) - When the tornado touched down, many Gaylord residents were going about their afternoon as normal. Little did they know it would be anything but.

One woman was shopping at Hobby Lobby when the roof was ripped off the building, and her hair was blown back by the gale.

“Lights falling everywhere, the light, like the lights went off, and then all you could hear was glass shatter, and people, like sheer terror screaming,” said Brittany Gunderson. “I watched that thing go sideways like a black swirling ball of terror, just…everything in its path it destroyed.”

Gunderson has lived in the small community for 25 years. She was shopping in Hobby Lobby when she got the alert on her phone.

Extensive damage at the Hobby Lobby in Gaylord- Photo credit Melissa Davison
Extensive damage at the Hobby Lobby in Gaylord- Photo credit Melissa Davison(National Weather Service)

“I was like, ‘this is so exaggerative. It just started storming. It’s not a big deal,” Gunderson said. “Not a single person shifted anything. Like no one ran for anything, no one did anything except for continue to shop.”

But then...

“I turn around and I literally watched the left back side of hobby lobby like the roof came off and it just literally tore through the entire back of the store like…I watched that tornado like, looked at it, and it just ate the entire back of the store,” Gunderson said.

From above, the destruction is even more evident.

“As I watched this tornado come through and I just think, like ‘oh my god this might be where my story ends, like, if this gets any closer to me there’s no way I’m gonna survive this,” Gunderson said. “And then it was just done. Like it was just radio silence. And then you could just hear the cries, like everyone crying, and the hobby lobby employees screaming for everyone to get into the bathrooms.”

When people started smelling gas, everyone evacuated.

Gunderson captured the damage inside the store and outside on her phone.

Tornado damage in Gaylord at Hobby Lobby and Jimmy John's- Photo credit Arica Alread
Tornado damage in Gaylord at Hobby Lobby and Jimmy John's- Photo credit Arica Alread(National Weather Service)

“I walk up to my minivan and it is literally untouched. Like nothing…there were things around it, there were things under it, but it was untouched. And I…it was the most wild experience of my entire life,” Gunderson said.

After making sure her three kids and husband were alright, she went home, having learned an important lesson.

“I said I will never not heed a warning like that again, like you will see me running as far and as fast as I can. If I have to dig a hole that’s what I will be doing to get as far underground as I can,” Gunderson said.

Like many families in Gaylord, the Gundersons are without power.

Thankfully, their home was untouched by the tornado, but homes just across the street, including many friends, were leveled to the ground.