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First Responders Talk: Their Perspective in Gaylord Tornado, Help They Received

The Emergency Manager in Gaylord says they had eight minutes, a brief window and a heads up that this storm was coming. Now, they’re catching their breath, getting to assess the damage and giving some perspective on who answered the call for help.

There are 48 reported injuries from Friday’s tornado and two reported deaths, a few more since the update over the weekend, some of them critical. Getting help was also critical, hundreds of people responded to the scene.

“I had five engines and a supervisor come out of Grand Traverse and Benzie and Leelanau,” said Chief Jon Deming, Otsego Counter EMS/Emergency Management Director. “And I had five ambulances from those respective counties coming to help.”

The Emergency Management Director says they also had help from the surrounding counties. Plus 40 first responders from Oakland Counter, another 20 from Metro Detroit.

“We’ve had people come from as far away as, I know one officer spoke to somebody from Pittsburgh who came to help out in the clean up,” said Chief Frank Claeys, Gaylord Police Department. “People from Ohio, people from Indiana. Just an amazing outpouring of people.”

Early counts reveal 1,500 volunteers and damage to 300 homes throughout Gaylord.

“Our close community response has been amazing,” said Chief Claeys. “I’ve seen people that I’ve known for the last 25 years out in the street with chainsaws and tractors and diving right in. Our officers were searching home to home in neighborhoods that we knew the occupants of those homes. We knew who we were looking for in those buildings.”

“Many victims were trapped in their cars or tossed around in their cars, roll down the road in their cars. And with the technology on cars now, a lot of them were not injured but scared,” said Chief Deming. “You see it on TV, the devastation. But when it’s in your neighborhood that’s destroyed, it’s real life.”

As cleanup crews continue their efforts, we’ve also learned that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, may be here this week as well to survey the damage.