Four tornadoes touched down in Mid-Michigan on March 14 and left a path of carnage in their wake.
Trees were toppled, and homes were destroyed that fell in the path of the devastating storm.
The first twister was rated as an EF0 with winds topping out at 80 mph. It touched down about 6:45 p.m.
That tornado began in Shiawassee County's Bennington Township and snapped pine trees at Innsbrook. Then it moved to a farm on S. Morris Road.
The tornado snapped more trees near Vandecarr and Bennington Road before lifting near the Maple River.
“In our community, when it hits home and it’s obviously close to you and you have to do your part to take care of your citizens,” Shiawassee County Undersheriff Robert Brancheau said.
Brancheau said he is in awe of the destruction a pair of twisters left behind.
A second tornado was confirmed near Vernon. It touched down around the intersection of Britton Road and I-69 at 6:45 p.m.. That tornado was an EF2 with estimated peak winds at 125 mph.
The tornado was on the ground for 18.2 miles and was 250 yards wide, the NWS reports.
The damage can be seen for miles.
Brancheau explained what his department is doing in the aftermath of the storm.
“Six, two-person assessment teams out in the field right now doing damage assessments. They’re reporting back to our command center. We currently have roughly 60 confirmed structural damage, 12 of those a complete loss,” Brancheau said.
“The storm damage we viewed is very devastating. It’s a relief that everyone in the area got out with their lives intact and without serious injury,” State Rep. Ben Frederick, of Owosso, said. “We appreciate all of the efforts made by first responders and volunteers to help the people who are affected.”
Frederick and Senator Tom Barrett, of Charlotte, toured the storm damage on March 15.
“It was impressive to see so many neighbors helping neighbors in the aftermath of this devastating tornado,” Barrett said. “We were out assessing some of the damage in the morning and all you could hear were chainsaws from the volunteers who were helping clear debris. That’s the sign of a strong community.”
Several roads in Shiawassee County are closed due to downed power lines and poles:
- M-71, between Bennington Road and the overpass
- Vernon Road, between the south Vernon village limits to Lansing Road
- Garrison Road, between Vernon Road and Harvest Road
- Reed Road, between M-71 and Bennington Road
Central dispatch is urging drivers to not bypass the barricades.
Brancheau said the detours will remain in place for a while.
“We have a few road closures still. We have downed power lines. So once the power lines get cleaned up and we get the debris off the roads, you know we’ll probably clear up the police operations at that time,” Brancheau said.
Despite all the damage and clean up that has to be done, the most important thing about Thursday’s severe weather event is no lives were lost.
Brancheau said that’s a small miracle considering how quickly the tornadoes moved in.
“We got lucky,” he said. “Maybe God had a hand in it. We’re extremely fortunate. We got a strong community and everybody is coming together.”
A third tornado touched down near Flushing at 7:09 p.m. That tornado was an EF0 with estimated peak winds at 85 mph. It was on the ground for eight miles and lifted at 7:17 p.m., according to the NWS.
A fourth tornado also touched down in Genesee County. The NWS said an EF0 with estimated peak winds of 80 mph touched down in Genesee Township at 7:24 p.m.
That tornado stayed on the ground for 6.5 miles and lifted at 7:29 p.m. It significantly damaged a trailer park in Genesee County.
Michigan State Police Flint Post troopers went door to door in Vernon Township to check on residents impacted by the storm.
MSP said more than 70 homes and businesses in the township were damaged from the storm.
Troopers want to remind neighbors and families to stay away from down power lines and do not enter any damaged structures.
"We are thankful for no reported injuries at this time," MSP said.
Shiawassee County Central Dispatch is asking people to stay off the roads because it is hampering first responders' efforts to help those in need.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a statement saying the county may request aviation support to help assess the damage:
Shiawassee County had the greatest impacts from the severe weather. Our Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security District Coordinator has been working with Shiawassee County Emergency Management throughout the duration of the event to ensure their needs are being met. Damage assessment is being coordinated by Shiawassee County Emergency Management. At this point, the county has not requested for any resources, but they may request aviation support to assist with the assessment. MSP Aviation is on standby and prepared to support if requested.
The Red Cross is working closely with emergency management to make sure those impacted have what they need. A shelter was set up at the Corunna Community Center, but that shelter closed Friday evening.
Shiawassee County residents are asked to call 989-743-9111 to report property damage if they have not spoken with the police or fire department.