Michigan Governor declares state of emergency in parts of state over tornadoes

ByMax Golembo, Meredith Deliso and Jason Volack ABCNews logo
Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of emergency in areas of Michigan due to the tornadoes that hit the area Tuesday.

"I've declared a state of emergency for Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Branch, and Cass counties after a severe storm system," Whitner shared on X. "We will work with emergency teams overnight to monitor the situation and coordinate resources for those affected. Michigan is strong and together we will rebuild."

The National Weather Service issued the first tornado emergency on record for Michigan on Tuesday, as severe weather impacted the region.

Multiple tornado warnings were in effect for southeast Michigan Tuesday evening. A tornado emergency was issued for Union City -- marking the first tornado emergency for the state on record, going back to 1999.

The National Weather Service warned there was a "confirmed large and destructive tornado" over Union City at 6:11 p.m. ET Tuesday.

The mayor of Portage, Michigan, near Kalamazoo, said her city suffered "extensive damage to both residential and commercial properties" after two tornadoes went through the area. Power was down on Tuesday night in the area, with downed trees and wires hindering repairs, she said.

Photos showed major damage to a FedEx facility in Portage. The company's facility there sustained heavy damage, with at least 50 people inside, officials said. There were no reports of serious injuries, according to authorities, and a rep for FedEx confirmed late Tuesday night that all team members were "safe and accounted for."

Kalamazoo officials said the Pavilion Estates mobile home park sustained "extensive damage" in the storm.

Earlier on Tuesday evening, Whitmer advised people to pay attention to the weather alerts.

"My heart goes out to all those affected by tonight's severe weather in southwest Michigan. Emergency teams are on the ground and working to assist Michiganders. I encourage everyone to continue monitoring severe weather alerts and follow the advice of emergency officials," she said in a statement on X.

After more than a dozen tornadoes were reported in the Plains overnight into Tuesday, the tornado threat moved into Ohio Valley and parts of the southern Great Lakes Tuesday afternoon and evening. Some 35 million Americans are in the storm zone, from Chicago to Nashville, Tennessee.

A tornado watch was issued for parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky into Tuesday night. A few tornadoes, damaging gusts up to 70 mph and baseball-sized hail are likely.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear urged residents to prepare for the severe weather -- including "potentially significant tornadoes," flooding, hail and high winds -- expected to hit much of the state over the next few days.

"We have been through all of those and we have seen how deadly they can be," Beshear said during a press briefing Tuesday. "So we need everyone to take action now by making a plan to keep yourself and your family safe."

The latest tornado threat comes as at least 20 tornadoes were reported in seven states overnight into Tuesday.

The twisters were reported in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee.

One of the hardest-hit areas in the storm was Barnsdall and Bartlesville, Oklahoma, north of Tulsa. The National Weather Service in Tulsa found low-end EF4 damage near Barnsdall during the tornado survey process on Tuesday.

One person was killed and several injured in Barnsdall, which sustained "significant damage" due to the tornado, according to Barnsdall Mayor Johnny Kelley.

"We need a lot of prayers," Kelley told reporters during a press briefing following the tornado.

Some 60 to 70 homes in the small town were "totally destroyed," among approximately 350 destroyed statewide, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said.

Approximately 25 people were rescued following an initial search, Kelley said. One person remains unaccounted for as another search effort got underway Tuesday, he said.

The missing man was in his trailer home talking to his son on the phone just minutes before the tornado came through, according to Stitt. Police K-9 units are involved in the search, he said.

"We're just praying a miracle happens," Stitt told reporters during a press briefing Tuesday evening.

Stitt has declared a state of emergency for several counties in the state due to the severe weather.

The destructive tornado was the second to hit Barnsdall in recent weeks.

"It's a devastating blow to the people in the community," Kelley said. "It's going to be life-changing."

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, had issued the highest-possible severe weather risk alert for multiple intense, long-track tornadoes Monday afternoon and evening.

ABC News' Kenton Gewecke and Melissa Griffin contributed to this report.

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