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Sixty Homes, Buildings Destroyed in Michigan Tornadoes

Assessments after the May 7 tornadoes found 60 homes and other buildings were destroyed after an EF2 tornado uprooted trees and downed power lines, flipped vehicles, and displaced hundreds of people.

Several boats sit damaged at Lambrecht Marina, in Harrison Twp. Wednesday after storms rolled through the state the night before.
David Guralnick/TNS
(TNS) - Findings from local assessments nearly a week after twisters blitzed through four southwest Michigan counties detailed the level of destruction ahead of federal evaluations this week, Kalamazoo County officials announced Monday.

Assessments conducted by the county after tornadoes struck May 7 found 60 homes and other buildings were destroyed after an EF2 tornado uprooted trees and downed power lines, flipped vehicles, displaced hundreds of people and hospitalized nearly two dozen residents.

Among the destroyed properties were 25 single-family homes, eight multifamily buildings, 24 mobile homes and three businesses, said Mike Corfman, Kalamazoo County Emergency Management director Monday during a news conference.

"On May 7, 2024, severe weather struck the counties of Branch, Cass, Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties, producing damaging winds, multiple witnessed and radar-observed tornadic activities, and four confirmed tornadoes," Corfman said.

"Local assessments concluded that the damage to private residences was of significant severity, so a joint preliminary damage assessment ... has been called for," said Corfman, who added that information on damages was reported to the Michigan Emergency Operations Center, which forwarded reports to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Properties that sustained major damage include 80 single-family homes, 11 multifamily buildings, 27 mobile homes, 10 businesses and a church. They would require "extensive repair to get it back to the way it was or they may have to tear it down," Corfman said.

More than 400 structures had minor damage, but Corfman noted that federal agencies focus on destroyed and majorly damaged structures when determining the extent of federal assistance.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week declared a state of emergency for Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Branch and Cass counties.

A preliminary damage assessment with federal officials, according to Corfman, will be conducted Tuesday by six teams of local and state officials alongside FEMA and the Small Business Administration, from which assistance will be issued. The teams will move to each jurisdiction, beginning in Kalamazoo County.

Of the two twisters that touched down Tuesday evening in Portage in Kalamazoo County, about two hours west of Detroit, one was labeled an EF2 by the National Weather Service. It was on the ground between 5:55 p.m. and 6:17 p.m. and had peak winds of up to 135 mph stretching along a path of 300 yards and length of nearly 11 miles, the weather service said.

An EF2 tornado has speeds between 111-135 mph, according to the weather service.

Portage city officials Monday said case workers from the state's Department of Health and Human Services were set up at the Portage Community Center, 325 East Centre Ave., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday to help households affected by the storm complete applications for emergency relief funding and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

Two tornadoes were reported in Dowagiac in Cass County on Tuesday evening, the weather service said. One twister was reported in Centreville, Colon, Leonidas, Mendon and Wasepi in St. Joseph County, while another was reported in Sherwood in Branch County. There was one in Comstock in Kalamazoo County, the agency said.

Corfman described dealing with the storm's aftermath so close to home as "really kind of different."

"I've deployed to a lot of disaster areas in the course of my job and my military service...but this happened to our community, and this is really kind of different for me," he said.

"... We're taking this just a little bit more personal and we're trying as hard as we can to get the proper aid that we need from the federal government and all of our other partners."

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