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Two dead, 44 injured in Michigan tornado that tore through homes and businesses

The small city of Gaylord in Northern Michigan was struck by an EF3 tornado Friday afternoon.
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Two people have died and 44 others were injured when a rare tornado struck Northern Michigan on Friday afternoon, authorities said.

Michigan State Police confirmed the fatalities Friday evening and said 44 people were taken to multiple hospitals in Northern Michigan. Conditions of the patients were unavailable.

One person has been reported missing, authorities said Saturday.

The tornado that struck the city of Gaylord, about 230 miles north of Detroit, created damage consistent with an EF3 rating, and had maximum winds of 150 mph, the National Weather Service said Saturday.

It damaged an unknown number of homes and businesses and felled trees and power lines, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement.

Michigan State Police Lt. Derrick Carroll said Saturday that his understanding was both fatalities were located at an area mobile home park hit hard by the rotating column of air.

Authorities named the location as Nottingham Forest Mobile Home park west of Gaylord's center, where they estimated 95 percent of residences sustained extensive damage, according to NBC affiliate WPBN of Traverse City, Michigan

The station aired images of mobile homes flipped and neighboring structures near Gaylord Cinema West theaters ripped apart.

At a Friday evening news conference the governor signed a declaration of emergency for Otsego County, which includes Gaylord. “We’ll do whatever it takes to rebuild,” she said.

Power outages in the area prompted Gaylord's Otsego Memorial Hospital to divert some new patients to other facilities, the station reported.

More than 14,000 customers in Michigan were without power Saturday, according to PowerOutage.US. On Saturday, utility Consumes Energy said 4,715 customers in Gaylord were "affected" by outages.

The city of Gaylord declared a 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew Friday and asked residents to shelter in place, according to state police. Carroll said the curfew would return Saturday.

Whitmer said Friday she would commit the resources to support the rebuilding effort.

“My heart goes out to the families and small businesses impacted by the tornado and severe weather in Gaylord,” she tweeted. “To the entire Gaylord community—Michigan is with you.”

A National Weather Service employee reported seeing a tornado touch down on the west side of Gaylord at 3:53 p.m. National Weather Service meteorologist Rich Pollman said by email the agency had initially confirmed the tornado.

The agency’s process of fully confirming tornadoes usually includes a next-day walkthrough of the impacted area to measure its possible path and damage.

WPBN reported the vortex was believed to be on the ground in Gaylord for about 3 minutes Friday.

A supercell thunderstorm produced the tornado that hit the town, the National Weather Service said in a statement.

The supercell formed as thunderstorms swept across Michigan. Surface low pressure strengthened west of Lake Michigan, and that drew warm, moist air north across the state and created the instability to support the storms, the weather service said.

After producing the tornado that hit Gaylord, the supercell would go on to drop hail the size of baseballs on Posen, a village 50 miles to the east, the agency said.

Federal forecasters said severe storms from Lower Michigan to southern Oklahoma and eastern Texas were possible through Saturday.