The death toll from Friday's tornado in Gaylord ticked up from one person to two after a victim was discovered early Saturday morning in the wreckage of a destroyed mobile home park downtown, according to Michigan State Police.
The two victims were in their 70s. Both were discovered in the Nottingham Forest Mobile Home Park off of M-32 in Gaylord, said Lt. Derrick Carroll of the Michigan State Police, during a press conference Saturday morning.
The mobile home park where the second victim was discovered is almost completely wrecked, Otsego County Fire Chief Chris Martin said.
"There have been trailers picked up and turned over on top of each other," he said.
The storm's injury count remains at 44 people injured. They are being treated at hospitals across Northern Michigan. One person is still missing. Eleven people are still at a shelter at the E-Free Church off of M-32.
"Right now, we're just trying to do the cleanup," Carroll said. "There's still downed power lines. There's a lot of danger out there."
Roger Curtis, spokesman for Consumers Energy, said they hope to get power back on for most residents by 11:30 pm Saturday night. Power is out for about 6,500 customers, which he said was about 40% of the area.
Some restoration will take longer because the extent of the damage.
“The devastation is incredible,” Curtis said.
They have 100 crews on site. They will be serving free meals to residents from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot at Kirtland Community College.
This was the first tornado to touch down in Gaylord since at least 1950, according to John Boris of the National Weather Service.
A history of twisters: Tornadoes in Michigan since 1950
The state of Michigan averages about 15 tornadoes within a given year. But those are typically concentrated downstate, and events of this magnitude are very rare in Northern Michigan, Boris said at the press conference.
Frank Claeys, Gaylord's chief of police, said the tornado decimated about a three-block stretch of his small town. The community has pulled together to help one another, but the wreckage is devastating.
"You have seen people that it's more than just a house, it's more than just where they're gonna live for a couple years," he said. "They lost their homes yesterday. So, it's rough."
Gaylord first became a city in 1922. City officials are slated to honor its 100th anniversary next Saturday, May 28. City manager Kim Awrey said they hope to move ahead with the celebration to keep "a sense of normalcy."
'Slammed with debris'
Vic Ouellette stood outside the home he was born in, a tangled mess of debris.
Ouellette, a city councilman for Gaylord, said he took shelter in the basement of the home he shares with his wife, Connie, after seeing the tornado's funnel cloud. Vic Ouellette suffered a blow to the head and Connie Ouellette's vertebrae was cracked. She was treated at McLaren Hospital in Petoskey.
"I watched her literally get slammed with debris and particles from the flooring," he said. "The wall slapped her on the back and knocked her down with stuff going on top of her."
Vic Ouellette was born in the basement of the house on Ostego Avenue in 1947, two years after his parents built the home. He later returned to Gaylord after retiring from law enforcement and bought the house from his mother.
Now, he's unsure if he will rebuild or sell the property.
"I didn't lose a house, I lost a home," he said.
Taylor Peterson was at work in a different town when the tornado ripped through. When she first checked her phone she said she had numerous missed calls and text messages. The property she rents is a mess of debris and fallen trees. There is a hole in the home's roof. But the damage is not as bad as in other areas of town, she said.
"I'm glad it would rather happen here instead of someone who's not capable of cleaning this stuff up," she said. "I've got a lot of resources to get stuff gone."
On Saturday, her brother and a few friends helped her clean up, as they tossed insulation to the side.
"It's absolutely crazy," she said. "Northern Michigan, especially a town like Gaylord getting hit like this is insane."
Mobile home park destroyed
This crisis will hit low income residents hard and for a long time, with the destruction of the mobile home park and a leveled Goodwill thrift store said Erin Mann, Ostego County United Way Executive Director.
“This is going to be a marathon not a sprint,” Mann said. “We are going to be responding to this for a long time.”
The destruction at the mobile home park in particular will exacerbate an existing affordable housing crisis in the region. Affordable housing Up North is hard to come by and there is a shortage of rentals for workers.
“We just lost one of our largest low income housing areas … and we already have a housing crisis in Ostego County," Mann said.
Those who want to donate can take items, such as gas cards, toiletries and snacks, to the E-Free Church in Gaylord on East M-32. Mann said there is no need for clothes donations. And those who would like to volunteer in the future can register on the United Way’s website, Mann said.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Gaylord tornado: Deaths rise to 2, 44 injured