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Rare northern Michigan tornado kills one, injures more than 40

GAYLORD, MICHIGAN (AP) – A rare northern Michigan tornado tore through a small community on Friday, killing at least one person and injuring more than 40 others as it flipped vehicles, tore roofs from buildings and downed trees and power lines.

The twister hit Gaylord, a city of about 4,200 people roughly 370 kilometres northwest of Detroit, at around 3.45pm.

Mike Klepadlo, who owns the car repair shop Alter-Start North, said he and his workers took cover in a bathroom. “I’m lucky I’m alive. It blew the back off the building,” he said. “Six metres of the back wall is gone. The whole roof is missing. At least half the building is still here. It’s bad.”

Emma Goddard, 15, said she was working at the Tropical Smoothie Cafe when she got a phone alert about the tornado. Thinking the weather outside looked “stormy, but not scary”, she dismissed it and returned to what she was doing. Her mother then called and she assured her mom she was OK. Two minutes later, she was pouring a customer’s smoothie when her coworker’s mum rushed in yelling for them to get to the back of the building, Goddard told The Associated Press by text message. They took shelter in the walk-in cooler, where they could hear windows shattering.

“I was crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with my seven co-workers, two of my co-workers’ parents and a lady from Door Dash coming to pick up her smoothies.”

When they left the cooler about 15 minutes later and stepped outside, they saw “some of our cars in pieces and insulation all over the ground”, Goddard said.

Three neighbouring businesses were destroyed, she said. A spokesman for Munson Healthcare Brian Lawson said Otsego Memorial Hospital was treating 23 people injured by the tornado and that one person was killed.

He didn’t know the conditions of the injured or the name of the person who died.

Jack Elliott inspects his 2017 Dodge on May 20 in Gaylord, Michigan, after a red pine crushed the vehicle during a tornado. PHOTO: AP