PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — On Friday, the day after a tornado ripped through Comstock Park, 88-year-old Gordie Hankinson climbed on his tractor.
Everyone was cleaning up, but Hankinson was one of only a few who remembered the 1956 Hudsonville-Standale tornado, West Michigan’s deadliest such storm. No one was killed nor injured in Thursday’s EF1 tornado. But it left behind plenty of destruction. It damaged Hankinson’s home and leveled pretty much everything around it. One tree landed on his garage.
“It was about 20 after 8, and all of sudden it got real windy,” Hankinson said. “I was in the house and all I could see was the stuff blowing on the windows. I got in the middle of the house in case the windows broke. … I started looking out and I saw my back shed there was gone..”
By Friday afternoon, as the symphony of chainsaws played across the Comstock Park area, Hankinson was climbing aboard his Kubota tractor. He yanked a broken branch from a black walnut tree out front and bulldozed piles of branches as his son and grandsons armed themselves with chainsaws.
“They told us if we get brush out and close to the road, they’ll take it and grind it up,” Hankinson explained. “So that’s what I’m working on, trying to get some of these piles pushed out there.”
He didn’t mind the hard work. It was good for him, he said.
“I can eat more donuts,” he joked.
In a nearby neighborhood, crews were cleaning the glass from inside Barb Liszewski’s home, but nobody had touched the branch that pierced her garage.
She was home when the storm hit.
“Wind just started whipping, deck chairs started flying, my grill started flying and I said, ‘I’m in the basement.’ And I heard lots of crashing and breaking of glass,” she said.
The storm blew out seven windows, plus the glass in her front door.
Cleanup hadn’t started at the home of Anthony Jackson, who said the tornado pulled a patio umbrella out of his hand. His trampoline ended up in trees two doors down.
“I came out here to try to put an umbrella down so it wouldn’t fly away. And within seconds the wind just intensified and I had to let go of the umbrella,” Jackson said. “It went flying out of my hand.”
Among the crews cleaning up in a neighborhood near Pine Island Elementary School was the Comstock Park High School football team, just hours before its first game of the season versus Tri County High School.
It was the right thing to do, the players and their coach said.
“I hope an opportunity like this to help out people in need shows our kids the community that’s behind us and we can go out there and play for the name that’s across our chest,” head coach Doug Samuels said.
Running back Easton Hood said the team had already planned to do a team bonding session Friday.
“Instead we might as well bond while we can help our community,” he said, “like two in one, you know.”
“We’ve just seen a lot of things go down in the past 14 hours around there, and we just know how our community gives back to us in our games and such, and we just wanted to come here and show them that we’re here for them,” lineman Gabe Vasquez said.
Some neighbors were moved to tears.
“I just kind of lost it,” one neighbor said. “It’s CP strong. That’s what we are.”