VIDEO: 'We have mass destruction.' Chopper 7 shows scenes near Portage after severe storms

Posted at 3:07 PM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 18:49:04-04

(AP MODIFIED) — A community is reeling after tornadoes and severe storms ripped through west Michigan Tuesday evening.

VIDEO: Chopper 7 video shows mobile homes completely destroyed:

Chopper 7 video shows mobile homes destroyed in Pavilion Township after storms ripped through Michigan

Three tornadoes have been confirmed in Michigan as severe storms barreled through the central U.S. early Wednesday, killing one man in Tennessee when a tree toppled onto a vehicle he was in.

National Weather Service meteorologist Nathan Jeruzal said the tornadoes in Michigan touched down one each in Kalamazoo, Cass and Branch counties — all in the southwestern part of the state.

Kalamazoo County's Portage area was hard hit as a FedEx facility was ripped apart and more than a dozen mobile homes were destroyed.

VIDEO: Chopper 7 shows FedEx facility damage after severe storms hit:

FedEx facility destroyed after tornadoes touch down on west side of Michigan

In Portage, Michigan, about 50 people temporarily were trapped inside a damaged FedEx facility because of downed power lines. More than a dozen homes were destroyed in a mobile home park in adjacent Pavilion Township and 16 people were injured, said Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller.

“We found homes in the roadway,” Fuller said late Tuesday. “We found homes in neighbors’ homes. We found large trees in homes.”

Nancy Gordon, who lives on E. Milham Avenue, recounted what she experienced Tuesday evening to 7 News Detroit's Mike Duffy.

“I stood right here, and my two neighbors were out here too, and I saw the debris flying around and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ And then I said, ‘It’s the tornado,'" she recalled.

Gordon rushed inside for safety.

"I went in this bathroom," she said. “I laid here, and I put this rug on top of me.”

The tornado was passing overhead.

“I heard it hit the tree. I had a tree in front. It was, all the trees, the limbs, everything. I could hear them. I was just praying to Jesus. I said, ‘Jesus please help us,'" she said. “My closets were open so I felt it, the wind, actually lift me up a little bit.”

Now she can no longer stay in her home.

Power was knocked out to more than 20,000 people.

VIDEO: Watch officials deliver update on storm damage near Portage:

VIDEO: Officials provide update after storms cause major damage on west side of Michigan

“We’re looking at homes throughout this community that are totally gone, they’ve been demolished,” Fuller said in the light of day at Pavilion Estates mobile home park.

Sheriff Fuller said Wednesday that people in the community now need places to stay after the storms.

"We have mass destruction ... I have to keep reminding everybody, thankfully there are no loss of life," said Sheriff Fuller.

“We are very grateful … there were absolutely no fatalities," said Portage Mayor Patricia Randall.

Randall also said the injuries reported were minor.

Samantha Smith clutched a box Wednesday afternoon as she stepped from her mother’s partially wrecked home in Michigan's Pavilion Township. Inside the box were her grandmother’s ashes. Being able to recover the most cherished of items offered Smith a rare moment of relief amid the storm’s devastation.

“Finding this box is the best thing that’s happened to me these past 24 hours,” she said. “The main thing we were all worried about was my grandma’s ashes.”

Her parents and brother were injured during the storm. Her brother suffered a broken pelvis and broken back, but he and other victims all survived, Smith added.

“I have thanked God probably a billion times since this happened yesterday,” she said. “My kids are healthy and good. We just gotta make back up what we lost.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for four counties.