The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado hit an eastern Michigan campground, leaving in its wake one person dead, four injured and massive damage.
Meteorologist Steve Freitag says the tornado struck shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday at the Fort Trodd Family Campground in St. Clair County's Clyde Township. The relatively weak tornado contained estimated wind gusts of 95 mph.
Authorities say 75-year-old James Anderson of Mount Clemens was killed but declined to release details. Four people were taken to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.
The storm knocked over trailers and scattered furniture, bikes and debris throughout the private campground about 65 miles north of Detroit.
Many camping trailers were damaged, including the 30-foot camper where Diana Gawronski and her husband, Ed, were when they saw the sky turning dark.
"The rain came, the wind came and that was it," said Gawronski, 67, of Warren. The couple "hit the floor, bounced around and then it was over." Gawronski said her camper stayed upright but suffered significant damage, including losing a screened-in room and the furniture it contained.
One trailer landed in a large pond on the private campground, which features 80 to 100 campsites about 65 miles north of Detroit. A dive team searched the water as a precaution Sunday night even after authorities said all campground visitors were accounted for.
The National Weather Service had issued multiple tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings across the southern part of the state Sunday and confirmed at least one tornado in southwest Wayne County, about 35 miles southwest of Detroit, that destroyed a couple of garages.
Jerry Dyer, one of the campground's managers, said he was watching the Weather Channel in his camper when he saw a high-wind warning flash on the screen. He immediately headed for the door to warn campers.
"No sooner I got to the door — kaboom! — the rain hit," Dyer said. "It came out of nowhere."
Conrad Dzialo, 69, of Dearborn Heights, said he and his wife had left the campground to visit their grandson when he got a call from a friend about what happened. He returned to find his trailer on its side.
"I didn't realize there was so much devastation," he said after surveying the site.