ROMULUS, Mich. — A strong storm powered by winds of up to 75 mph (121 kph) in Michigan downed trees, tore roofs off buildings and left hundreds of thousands of customers without power. The National Weather Service said Friday some of the damage may have been caused by two tornadoes.
A woman and two young children were killed in a two-vehicle crash as it was raining Thursday night, a spokesperson for the Kent County Sheriff’s office said.
“There was two vehicles traveling toward each other. One hydroplaned on water and it was occupied by four people,” Sgt. Eric Brunner told WZZM-TV. He said at least two other people were injured in the crash.
In Ingham County, where there was a report of a possible tornado, the sheriff’s office said Friday that more than 25 vehicles along Interstate 96 were severely damaged, with one confirmed fatality and several people severely injured.
Trees were uprooted, and some roofs collapsed. Many roads were closed due to trees and power lines that had fallen. The National Weather Service in Grand Rapids said officials would be in the field Friday conducting damage surveys on two suspected tornadoes, in Kent and Ingham counties.
Part of the roof collapsed and shingles were ripped off an adult foster care facility near Williamston, in Ingham County.
“Once I felt that sucking, I could just feel the power of it, and I could feel it all shaking, I could feel the roof shaking and coming apart,” James Gale, a caretaker of 14 people . told WXYZ-TV. He said the ceiling was gone from one woman’s room and she was taken to a hospital. Others were taken by buses to another facility.
More than 420,000 customers in Michigan and over 215,000 in Ohio were without power as of 7:30 a.m. Friday, according to the Poweroutage.us website.
The storm Thursday night followed a round of heavy rain Wednesday that left areas in southeast Michigan with over 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of rain by Thursday morning, resulting in street flooding in the Detroit area, including tunnels leading to Detroit Metropolitan Airport in the suburb of Romulus, officials said. Officials reopened the airport’s McNamara Terminal on Thursday afternoon. Severe storms developed in the western part of the state in the afternoon.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer activated the State Emergency Operations Center on Thursday evening to provide support to affected communities “as they respond to the impacts of flooding.”
Parts of the western United States have been deluged in recent weeks with rain from Tropical Storm Hilary, and much of the central U.S. was beaten down by deadly sweltering heat. In Hawaii and Washington, emergency crews battled catastrophic wildfires.
Scientists say that without extensive study they cannot directly link a single weather event to climate change, but that climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme events such as storms, droughts, floods and wildfires. Climate change is largely caused by human activities that emit carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, according to the vast majority of peer-reviewed studies, science organizations and climate scientists.
Hendrickson reported from Columbus, Ohio. Associated Press reporters Rick Callahan and Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; and Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this story.