Barry Co. tornado witness: ‘it was kinda crazy’

Barry County

MAPLE GROVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Sunday tornado that severely damaged a Barry County farm took neighbors by surprise.

“We were sitting watching the TV and visiting with our daughter and just enjoying ourselves, watching the storm and figured it was just a good hard rain with wind, but it was kinda crazy,” said John Cheeseman, who lives on Barryville Road. “I was looking out the big windows there right here in the front yard. The wind was just swirling in all directions.”

Barry County farmer George Hubka was fishing just minutes before the storm rolled in. 

“I was out on the water when I noticed the sky just go black,” he said. “I started heading for the house quick after the wind whipped up.”

The National Weather Service confirms an EF-0 tornado touched down near Hubka’s home just before 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The twister traveled southwest between Dowling and Maple Grove Township. No one was injured.

The NWS says the tornado only stayed on the ground for three minutes, but it was enough time to blow over three barns on Rod Crothers’ farm.

>>Photo gallery: May 19, 2019 tornado damage

Crothers has operated the farm for nearly 40 years, but recently retired. He’s been leasing out his land for corn, wheat and soy farming.

The barns destroyed by the tornado contained farm equipment and supplies he’s gathered over the years. The barns were insured, but it’s unclear what will happen next.

“Being that he’s my age and retiring, I don’t know if there’s going to be a new barn or not in that spot,” said Hubka, who lives near Crothers. “It would be a tremendous loss to go through it, too. You know, you would feel that immediately.”

The tornado also downed several trees and ripped down a telephone pole, according to the NWS. For Hubka and the Cheesemans, the twister was a wake-up call. 

“I think we hear these warnings on TV, take for your safe shelter area or something, and we probably have gotten callus to that that we don’t believe that it could happen to us or our area,” Hubka said. “I would say from now on when we hear a storm warning it’s down in the basement.”

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