Sunday PM update: Some good news…all but a handful of residents in Antrim and Otsego counties have had their power restored. Dry weather for Monday and Tuesday will benefit the clean-up efforts. First responders are back to normal operations. The curfew has been lifted for Sun. night. The curfew isn’t just to impede looting, it’s to keep any additional injuries from happening. At night, it’s easier to step on a nail, fall and get hurt, or run into an animal (cow or horse) that might be roaming free because fences have been knocked down. The injured that remain in 3 area hospitals continue to make progress. Several people were severely injured by Friday’s tornado. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Previous: A strong tornado moved through Gaylord, Michigan Friday afternoon around 3:50 pm. The tornado resulted in two fatalities and 44 injuries (not counting those with minor injuries that self-treated or were treated by a doctor or nurse at the scene).

Gaylord tornado rated EF3

The Gaylord Tornado has been rated EF3 – with peak winds of 150 mph. The last time we had a tornado close to this strength in Michigan was 3/15/2012 in Dexter. That tornado was an EF3 with winds of 135-140 mph. This is the first tornado ever recorded within the city limits of Gaylord (since 1950). In fact, this is only the 3rd tornado ever recorded in Otsego County (since 1950). There was an F1 tornado on July 9, 1991 and another tornado occurred on July 11, 1969.

Pictures of the damage here. While it’s still up – some amazing video of the tornado. Here’s a video compilation of the tornado and the damage. Check out the guy at 6:50 into the video walking toward the camera. Seems like he doesn’t have a clue there’s a tornado a block behind him…his hat blows off and he kind of goes “aw shucks”.

16.6 mile path of the Gaylord Tornado – it traveled at 50 mph.
Close up Path of the Gaylord Tornado – the 2 fatalities were at Nottingham Forest Trailer Park

The last time we had more than 40 injuries from a tornado in Michigan was July 2, 1997, when there were 90 injured at Highland Park. This is only the 2nd time in the last 32 years that we have had multiple fatalities from a tornado in Michigan. Both of the fatalities in Gaylord occurred to residents of the mobile home park. They were both in their 70s. Michigan has had a total of 7 tornado fatalities since 1990. The last death from an EF3 tornado in Michigan was in 2001. Here’s a list of tornado outbreaks (6 tornadoes or more) in Michigan since 1950:

6/8/53 was the Flint-Beecher tornado, 4/11/65 was the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak. On 5/21/01 we had 4 small tornadoes just in Kent County. That was the most tornadoes in a single day in Michigan since 1950.

So far this year (Jan. 1 – May 21), there have been 15 tornado fatalities in the U.S. and 17 worldwide (the other two were in Poland). This year we have had 2 EF4 tornadoes in the U.S. (winds over 165 mph) and 14 EF3 tornadoes. A total of 573 tornadoes have been confirmed in the U.S. this year so far. The Gaylord tornado is the only tornado confirmed in Michigan so far in 2022. I predict it won’t be the last.

Path of the Gaylord Tornado – WSW to ENE

The tornado touched down SW of Gaylord and quickly attained EF1 strength (86-110 mph). Winds of this strength can uproot trees and cause building damage. The twister reached maximum intensity in the city proper at EF3 (150 mph in this case), then weakened gradually to EF9 (65-85 mph as it left Gaylord, passing just north of the Treetops Resort

From the Gaylord NWS: “Multiple thunderstorms tracked across northern Michigan during the afternoon, including a supercell thunderstorm that produced the tornado that hit the town of Gaylord along with very large hail in other parts of the area. 

Setting the stage for severe weather was a trough that rotated across the upper Midwest that developed and strengthened surface low pressure west of Lake Michigan. This system helped draw a warm, moist airmass northward across the state that helped provide the instability necessary to support severe thunderstorms later in the day. Storms initially formed along the cold front across Wisconsin during the morning hours and moved northeast across Lake Michigan, making it into the forecast area by early afternoon. The strongest line segment generated a measured wind gust of 76 mph at Frankfort Light and continued to produce damaging wind gusts across Leelanau and Antrim counties as it quickly moved northeast.

As this segment moved further away from the cold front, it began to transition into a supercell thunderstorm. This storm moved east-northeast across a very favorable environment in place across northern lower Michigan, eventually producing a tornado that caused considerable damage in the city of Gaylord. This supercell continued to trek across the area, producing baseball-sized hail in Posen.

A special weather balloon launch was conducted at 3 PM EDT to get a better look at the environment in place ahead of the approaching storm. The data from this balloon launch displayed a rare environment in place that was supportive of storms producing damaging wind gusts, very large hail, and tornadoes. Specifically, the data showed ample instability in place. This is measured by a variable called Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE), where values were near 2,000 Joules/kilogram. Very strong wind shear was also in place, which is a measure of the change in wind speed and direction with height in the atmosphere. Almost 60 knots of shear was measured from the surface to 6 km above ground level. Storm-relative helicity (SRH), a variable that shows the tendency of the air being drawn into the storm to spin, had values of almost 300 meters^2/second^2. The magnitude of all of these variables are very high, supportive for supercell thunderstorm development and severe weather. Additionally, it is very rare for this magnitude of all of these variables to come together at once across northern Michigan.”

Radar Image
Radar showing the storms crossing Northern Lower Michigan

The storm that produced the tornado is called a “supercell”. This storm also produced wind damage and hail up to the size of baseballs.

Several houses were shifted completely off their foundations or had their roofs entirely ripped off and exterior walls collapsed. The back wall of a Maurices collapsed, leading to the failure of the structure’s roof and beams. Other businesses suffered failure of their roofs and walls as well. Outbuildings were destroyed, and numerous (hundreds) trees were snapped or uprooted

Storm Reports from storms Friday May 20, 2022

As the storm came off Lake Michigan, it produced a wind gust of 76 mph at Frankfort in Benzie County. Wind damage was reported in Leelanau County at Glen Arbor and at Leland. Both locations reported downed trees blocking roads.

The storm then crossed Traverse Bay moving into Antrim County, where wind damage was reported at Central Lake, Bellaire and at Elmira, where damage may be surveyed to see if there was a possible tornado there. Hail to 2″ in diameter fell at Elmira.

The tornado was first reported on M-32 west of Gaylord. The twister moved through the city of Gaylord (population 4,286) and was still visible on the ground near the town of Sparr. The twister barely missed the Treetops Resort (just east of Gaylord and just north of M-32). Also in Otsego Co., 1″ diameter hail fell 5 miles NW of Gaylord and nickel-size hail hit Vanderbilt.

Huge hail falling at Grand Lake in Presque Isle County – from Mary Brunette Taglarini

As the supercell continued moving ENE, it produced hail up to 3″ in diameter in Presque Isle County. The 3″ hail fell northwest of the town of Presque Isle. Baseball-sized hail hit Posen, with 2″ hail at Hawks. Hail the size of ping-pong balls fell at Clear Lake St. Park.

Golfball-sized hail also fell at Hessel in Mackinac Co.

Governor Whitmer declared a State of Emergency. That allows the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division to help coordinate state relief efforts.

This is the first tornado death in Michigan since 2010, when an EF1 tornado with 95 mph winds struck in Clyde Township of St. Clair Co. There was one fatality and four injuries when the twister hit a campground. Roughly 10 campers were destroyed or significantly damaged by that tornado.

This graphic was made in 2018 for the 20th anniversary of the “Great Gaylord Blowdown”, which occurred on September 26, 1998. That was the same year as the famous derecho of May 31, 1998 that hit West Michigan. The most extensive damage occurred in a roughly 2-mile wide by 12-mile long area parallel to and north of M-32, extending approximately from Elmira, through the city of Gaylord, then east out towards Treetops resort.

Have a great day and thanks for reading my blog.