On Friday, May 20, 2022, an EF-3 tornado touched down in the Gaylord area, killing two and injuring dozens more.
This devastating tornado destroyed homes, businesses and lives, and caused multiple gas leaks and left thousands without power.
9&10 News chief meteorologist Tom O’Hare presents a timeline of how this tornado developed.
We talked about the possibility of severe storms on Thursday, May 19. Most of the region was in a Level 2 risk for severe weather.
On Friday, May 20, storms over Wisconsin were being watched as temps rose quickly over Northern Michigan. The warmth increased the concern for severe weather. A severe thunderstorm watch was issued at 1:52 p.m.
It wasn’t long before we started cutting into programming due to severe thunderstorm warnings.
The first few warnings were for strong winds up to 70 miles per hour and/or hail of 1 inch in diameter.
Around 3 p.m., meteorologist Michael Stevens and chief meteorologist Tom O’Hare were focused on one particular storm near Mancelona as winds were looking off.
The storm was already severe when winds started showing rotation. Michael Stevens continued to track the storm as it moved east of Mancelona.
A tornado warning was issued at 3:38 p.m. near Alba, about nine miles west of Gaylord.
We were on air and streaming live on 9&10 Plus moments after the warning was issued. This storm was of high concern due to what we had seen with the wind over the last 30 minutes.
At 3:40 p.m., a tornado warning update was issued, noting a tornado was on the ground moving towards Gaylord. The initial warning was for a radar-indicated tornado, but we had a strong feeling one was on the ground. When the update came in, we made it clear the tornado was on the ground and causing damage. In addition, hail the size of ping-pong balls was possible.
The tornado blew through Gaylord around 3:45 p.m.
At 3:46 p.m., another tornado warning update came in noting it was a large and extremely dangerous tornado.
During this time, we were on the air making sure viewers knew what was happening in real time. Our hyper-local maps allowed us go back and look into where the damage occurred.
You can see the bright greens/reds to the left and right of Gaylord. Those colors being next to each other indicates rotation in the atmosphere. The white in the middle shows us right where the tornado was.
The storm was moving very fast, causing a lot of damage as it moved through the area.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Gaylord in the late evening hours of Friday, May 20.
This tornado was unusual for northern Michigan. Most of the time our viewing area deals with EF-0 to EF-2, weaker tornadoes that aren’t that large.
This was classified as an EF-3, with estimated max winds of 150 mph, a max width of 200 yards or 1/8 mile, and was on the ground for more than 16 miles. It caused the majority of the damage around Gaylord. This is the first tornado to ever touch down in the Gaylord area. The last notable event there was in 1998 when straight line winds of 100 mph hit the area.
The last EF-3 to hit the state was in 2012 near Dexter, and before that in 2007 in Eaton County near Potterville.
The Doppler 9&10 Weather Team’s reporting continued as the tornado warning ended at 4:20 p.m. near Montmorency County. A tornado warning was then issued for Presque Isle County at 4:36 p.m.
Our live reporting ended shortly after 5 p.m. as the storm moved over Lake Huron.
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