Suspected tornadoes leave damage near Lake Odessa, Remus

Severe Weather

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A line of strong storms pushed across West Michigan Saturday, possibly spawning tornadoes and leaving behind damage.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Around 3:45 p.m., a debris ball visible on radar indicated a brief tornado on the ground near Remus, southeast of the village of Mecosta. Video and photos sent from the scene showed a destroyed barn and downed utility poles and trees.

Crews spent the evening working on a damaged substation near 5 mile road and 70th avenue. Several fences were bent and concrete blocks were tilted out of place.

70th Ave was closed between 5 mile and 6 mile as crews dealt with downed power lines. News 8 crews couldn’t get down to see damage on this roadway because of the danger. Neighbors said some barns and cars were crushed by trees and debris.

Some of the most extensive damage was near 85th avenue and 5 mile road where a barn was destroyed.

There were several trees knocked down and pieces of roofing and debris were thrown about.

The homeowner says there were two horses inside the barn at the time the severe weather hit but they made it out and are being cared for by a neighbor.

About an hour later, around 4:45 p.m., debris on radar indicated a tornado on the ground northwest of Lake Odessa. Radar showed winds reached 110 mph.

Images from the area showed downed utility poles, what appeared to be siding sheared from a building and trees on a home.

Another tree fell across the bed of a pickup truck parked in front of a home. Part of that house also sustained damage, but all things considered it was minor.

“I didn’t know any damage until it was all over with,” homeowner Ted Thompson, standing in front of the truck, said. “It was kind of nerve-wracking, you know. You don’t know what to expect from Mother Nature, you know. She’s got a mind and when she wants to set it loose, she’s going to do what she wants, and she did, she did.”

He said when he got the tornado warning on his phone, he hurried to get his parents to someplace safe as the storm swept through. He said none of them were hurt.

“My biggest thing was to take care of my parents, you know, they’re my main thing. Their safety before mine,” said Thompson.

The brand new truck, Thompson said, belongs to family members visiting from Illinois. They were going to leave Sunday.

“Looks like Mother Nature put a stop to the trip home,” Thompson said.

Another Lake Odessa resident, Michael Gutierrez, lost three barns in the storm. He was at home with his family at the time.

“It was loud. The house kind of shook and it was over less than 30 seconds,” said Gutierrez. “All three barns are gone. A number of the trees have been torn down and uprooted. Vehicles are damaged.”

No one in his family was hurt.

“Happy to be alive. I don’t take anything for granted anymore,” said Gutierrez.

In Eaton County, there were reports of another tornado between Olivet and Charlotte around 5:15 p.m.

The National Weather Service will still have to confirm whether the reports were actually tornadoes. That can take some time — rulings may not be made until Sunday or even Monday.

Southwest winds have pumped moisture into West Michigan, building instability that fed the severe weather that was most active in the mid- to late afternoon. The chance of severe weather will decrease overnight as the atmosphere becomes more stable.

Saturday’s heavy rain added to totals accumulating over the previous three days. Many areas have picked up over 3 inches of rain since Thursday and some areas are reporting totals around 6 inches.

Several more rounds of rain and storms are in the forecast over the weekend and into next week. There’s a flood warning for Calhoun, Montcalm, Ionia, Allegan, Barry, Kalamazoo, Kent, Ottawa and Van Buren counties until 12 p.m. Sunday as a result.

Some parts of West Michigan are seeing flooded homes, basements and roads from the deluge of rain.

Kent County has closed several roads because of that, including westbound M-21 between Settlewood Drive and Bennett Street, stretches of 76th Street between Hanna Lake and Breton avenues and east of Division Avenue, 84th Street between Patterson and East Paris avenues, Cherry Valley Avenue between 76th and 84th streets and Thornapple River Drive between 60th and 68th streets, and 54th Street and Clay Avenue.

Flooding at 54th Street and Clay Avenue.

You shouldn’t drive through standing water because it’s difficult to tell how deep it is and because you can’t see whether the road remains intact under the water. You should also never drive around barriers blocking a road.

There are also reports of flooding starting happen in Kalamazoo. The city of Kalamazoo has sandbags for residents to protect their homes at 1330 Portage St. at Washington Square.

Even though photos of storm damage showed downed utility poles, there were only a few scattered power outages around West Michigan and Southwest Michigan after the storms Saturday.

If you see a downed power line, stay away from it. Even if it looks safe, it could be live. Call authorities.

Sunday will feature a smaller chance for severe thunderstorms. The rain will likely be less widespread, but some afternoon showers and thunderstorms could still pack a punch. The Storm Prediction Center has areas southeast of Grand Rapids in a “marginal” risk category of seeing severe weather, meaning only isolated severe storms are anticipated. 

The rain chances will continue into the upcoming work week, too. We’ll be monitoring any areas of flooding closely over the next week. Watch for standing water on the roads and remember to never drive through a flooded roadway. 

Storm Team 8 is always tracking the threat of severe weather. Make sure you have a way to receive weather alerts. You can download the Storm Team 8 weather app here for iPhone and iPad and here for Android.

Storm damage photos can be sent to ReportIt@woodtv.com. Be sure to include where they were taken and your name.

—News 8’s Dana Whyte, Whitney Burney and Madalyn Buursma contributed to this report.

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