2 Tornadoes Touch Down In Shiawassee County; Upwards Of 70 Homes, Businesses Damaged [VIDEO]

March 15, 2019 - 11:02 am
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VERNON TOWNSHIP (WWJ) - The National Weather Service confirmed two tornadoes touched down in Shiawassee County Thursday night, damaging upwards of 70 homes and businesses.

Officials say the weaker tornado, rated EF-0, hit at 6:47 p.m. in Bennington Township, just southwest of Corunna, and was on the ground for about 7 minutes. It traveled 6.4 miles, was 100 yards wide and had estimated peak winds of 80 miles per hour.

The tornado touched down close to the intersection of Bennington Greens and Innsbrook drives, snapping pine trees. It continued northeast, crossing M-52 near West Grand River Road. The tornado then hit a farm along South Morrice Road, where trees were uprooted and a barn lost its roof. The tornado also snapped several trees near Vandecarr and Bennington roads before lifting near the Maple River.

NWS officials are still assessing the damage from a second, stronger tornado that hit near Vernon Township. Updates are expected Friday afternoon. 

Officials began assessing the damage Friday morning. Roofs were blown off homes, at least one vehicle was pinned under utility lines, and several roads are closed due to flooding. So far, no serious injuries have been reported.

Brian Harvey, who lives in Vernon Township, said the tornado appeared quickly. 

"I seen two funnel clouds come shooting down M-71," he told WWJ's Charlie Langton. "That's all I can tell you, they just came down M-71. Looked like a train coming down the tracks."

One woman who is on oxygen had to be rescued after power lines fell on her home. A tool and die shop was lifted from the ground and dropped back down. Across the street, roofs were ripped from mobile homes.

"That is a blown up house," Harvey said, pointing to a neighbor's destroyed home. "An 86-year-old lady sitting in her chair, never had no warning, no nothing. It just imploded."

That woman was not seriously injured. 

The last tornado to hit Shiawassee County was on June 15, 2015 -- an EF-0 near Durand. An EF-0 tornado is considered weak, with 65 to 85 mph winds.

Residents are reminded to stay away from downed lines and to enter damaged structures. Widespread power outages are reported in the area. 

A shelter has been set up in the town of Durand for those left homeless by the storm.  

An unconfirmed tornado was also reported in nearby Flushing, in Genesee County, around 7:12 p.m. as strong storms pushed through the region. Damage was reported to several homes and a barn.

"I was scared to death," said Lenetta, who has lived in Flushing for years. "I was in the basement with my grandkids. We were scared."

Others, like Steve, were excited by the storm. 

"Well, I grabbed a beer and went on the front porch to look for it," he said. 

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