At least seven tornadoes touched down in Michigan as part of severe storms powered by strong winds that killed five people, while downing trees, tearing roofs off buildings and leaving hundreds of thousands of customers without power, officials said.
The National Weather Service on Friday said an EF-2 tornado with a maximum wind speed of 125 mph (201 kilometers per hour) struck Lansing, the state capital, killing one person Thursday night and injuring three others.
Lansing Police Department spokesperson Jordan Gulkis said an 84-year-old woman died after a tree fell on a home. Firefighters extricated the woman from the home, but she was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The weather service also confirmed that an EF-1 tornado with winds of 90 mph (145 kph) crossed from Ingham County into the western edge of adjacent Livingston County on Thursday night.
Four other EF-1 tornadoes were reported in Belleville and Gibraltar in Wayne County, and in South Rockwood and near Newport in Monroe County.
A weaker EF-0 tornado with peak winds of 80 mph (128 kph) was on the ground for less than two miles in Wayne County’s Canton Township, west of Detroit, the weather service said. That tornado caused a tree to fall into a house, said meteorologist Sara Schultz.
The weather service office in Grand Rapids, in western Michigan, said officials would be in the field Friday conducting damage surveys on a suspected tornado in Kent County.
The storms featured lightning displays erupting across the night sky and dumped multiple inches of rain on communities across the lower portion of the state.
In western Michigan, the Kent County sheriff’s office said a 21-year-old woman and two girls, ages 1 and 3, died Thursday night after two vehicles collided head-on as it was raining.
“There was two vehicles traveling toward each other. One hydroplaned on water and it was occupied by four people,” Sgt. Eric Brunner told WZZM-TV.
The sheriff’s office said a 22-year-old Gowen man who was driving the car carrying the woman and two girls was seriously injured in the crash, which occurred when his car struck an SUV. That vehicle’s driver suffered minor injuries.
In Ingham County, where Lansing is located, the sheriff’s office said Friday that one person was confirmed dead and several people severely injured as more than 25 vehicles were severely damaged along Interstate 96.
It was not immediately clear early Friday afternoon if the storm or a crash was responsible for the wrecks on the freeway.
In the north Detroit suburb of Southfield, Muqitu Berry said he was in his ranch home about 9:30 p.m. Thursday when a large part of the trunk of a neighbor’s tree came crashing down, sounding “like a train coming through.”
The tree ended up across the front of Berry’s driveway and yard and took down power lines, dropping them onto his driveway and at least one vehicle, leaving Berry and his neighbors without power.
“I can’t get out of my driveway. I can’t go anywhere,” Berry said Friday morning. “We’re out of power, and it’s very frustrating.”
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans declared a state of emergency Friday in Michigan’s largest county, which includes Detroit, due to power outages, flooding, fallen trees and power lines and storm debris.
The county also warned residents to avoid any contact with several rivers after flooding caused municipalities to discharge partially or fully untreated wastewater into various waterways.
In Macomb County, northeast of Detroit, several thousand basements in Eastpointe and St. Clair Shores were spared flooding when stormwater and wastewater were discharged to Lake St. Clair through an emergency bypass system, Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said. The bypass has been used only three times since 2017 but twice this week.
“Apparently, these storms have become our new normal,” Miller said. “This has been like a tropical storm, and both government and residents will need to make appropriate preparations whenever possible.”
Canton Township, a community of some 100,000 people, was hit earlier this week by flooding in its downtown business district.
“Some of our parks are destroyed,” township supervisor Anne Marie Graham-Hudak said, adding that the township received calls from 200 residents regarding flooding in their basements.
More than 390,000 customers in Michigan and over 120,000 in Ohio were without power as of about 7:15 p.m. Friday, according to the Poweroutage.us website.
Thursday night’s storms followed a round of heavy rain Wednesday that left areas in southeast Michigan with over 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of rain by Thursday morning, resulting in street flooding in the Detroit area, including tunnels leading to Detroit Metropolitan Airport in the suburb of Romulus, officials said.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday declared a state of emergency for Wayne and Monroe counties, which makes available state resources to help with response and recovery efforts related to storm damage.
The storms pushed east across Lake Erie and into northeast Ohio, uprooting trees and leaving thousands of homes and businesses without power.
A tornado also tore through part of Cleveland late Thursday night. It’s path was about 150 yards (137 meters) wide and nearly a mile long.
No injuries were reported, but several buildings were severely damaged, including the 143-year-old New Life at Calvary Church that lost its roof. Church leaders asked members to stay away from the building.
“2 Timothy 4:17 says, the Lord stood with me and gave me strength,” Pastor Kellie Sullivan said in a press release. “Our church has faced major loss and we praise God that no one was hurt. Please pray for our church as we start to rebuild.”
Parts of the western United States have been deluged in recent weeks with rain from Tropical Storm Hilary, and much of the central U.S. was beaten down by deadly sweltering heat. In Hawaii and Washington, emergency crews battled catastrophic wildfires.
Scientists say that without extensive study they cannot directly link a single weather event to climate change, but that climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme events such as storms, droughts, floods and wildfires. Climate change is largely caused by human activities that emit carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, according to the vast majority of peer-reviewed studies, science organizations and climate scientists.