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How Gaylord is preparing for severe weather season nearly a year after deadly tornado

We take a look at where the Gaylord community stands nearly one year after the deadly tornado and how we should prepare for severe weather.
Credit: Michigan State Police
An aerial shot of damage to Nottingham Forest Mobile Home Park in Gaylord.

GAYLORD, Mich. — Nearly one year ago, an EF-3 tornado ripped through Gaylord, Michigan. The storm left behind an 18-mile-long path of destruction, killing two and injuring dozens more. 

Severe weather can strike anywhere, anytime, and impact anyone. Gaylord knows that best.

We spoke with an employee of the National Weather Service (NWS) in Gaylord who knew the tornado was possible but was in awe of its strength. 

"The radar imagery is pretty textbook, very much a supercell that was producing a pretty strong tornado, and our top priority was to get the warning out," said NWS employee Harold Dippman. 

The warning was issued, but the response time was limited. 

"We received a text at 3:22 p.m., finishing up the day at the office, and at 3:47 p.m. the tornado came rolling by us at work," said Ben Blake. 

He wasn't the only one with limited time to respond. The manager of Goodwill in Gaylord said his employees received the alert and had an estimated eight seconds until the storm hit. 

"I had left the store just a few minutes before it hit. I was in my car and my cell phone went off about the warning. So, I turned around and went back to the store. By the time I was there, the damage was done," explained Kevin Arnold. 

Stories like this all across town. 

"The inside of the store was just demolished. We lost a couple of walls that allowed all the racks, fixtures and merchandise to just be scurried around the store," said Arnold. 

Many have spent the last 11 months rebuilding, but the fear of this happening again remains. 

"For 15 minutes to take so much from so many was such a humbling and heartbreaking experience," said Blake. "It instilled some fear in people that probably didn't take it as seriously as they should have."

When asked if they expected this to happen in Gaylord, both Blake and Arnold responded "no". 

Meteorologists agree that this storm was rare. 

"You don't typically see a larger severe weather event like that here in northern Michigan. So, for it to happen in little Gaylord, where it's not really that common, is a testament that it can happen anywhere — including the Grand Rapids area," explained Dippman. 

Which is why the time to prepare is now. 

Having multiple means to receive critical weather alerts and knowing how you would respond once a warning is issued is very important. 

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