Midwest tornadoes destroy mobile home park, trap workers in FedEx facility

Severe storms barreled through the Midwest early Wednesday, a day after two tornadoes struck one Michigan city and destroyed homes and commercial buildings, including a FedEx facility.

The tornadoes were first spotted after dark Tuesday in parts of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, while portions of Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri were also under a tornado watch, according to the National Weather Service. The storms came a day after a deadly twister ripped through an Oklahoma town.

As the storms raged on in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday, the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh warned that a tornado in northeastern Ohio could cross into Pennsylvania. Parts of West Virginia were also under a tornado warning.

Hours earlier in southwestern Michigan, two tornadoes blitzed the city of Portage near Kalamazoo on Tuesday night, destroying homes and commercial buildings, including a FedEx facility that was ripped apart.

At one point, about 50 people were trapped inside the FedEx facility because of downed power lines. But company spokesperson Shannon Davis said late Tuesday that “all team members are safe and accounted for.”

The Pavilion Estates Mobile Home Park in southeast Kalamazoo was “hit hard” by a tornado and entire homes at the park were destroyed, officials said. Rescue crews were on-site searching for survivors and those in need of temporary shelter, which was set up at Portage Senior Center, NBC News reports.

There were no serious injuries immediately reported, but city officials said in a news release that the twisters knocked out power to more than 20,000 people. Most of them would be without power until late Wednesday, city officials said.

More than 30,000 customers were without power in Michigan early Wednesday, and an additional 10,000 in Ohio, according to PowerOutage.us.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for four counties.

“My heart goes out to all those impacted by tonight’s severe weather in southwest Michigan,” Whitmer said in a message on social media. “State and local emergency teams are on the ground and working together to assist Michiganders.”

Tuesday’s storms came a day after parts of the central United States were battered by heavy rain, strong winds, hail and twisters. Both the Plains and Midwest have been hammered by tornadoes this spring.

On Monday night, a deadly twister in Oklahoma tore through the small 1,000-person town of Barnsdall. At least one person was killed and another was missing. Dozens of homes were destroyed.

Aerial videos showed homes reduced to piles of rubble and others with roofs torn off. The twister tossed vehicles, downed power lines and stripped limbs and bark from trees across the town. A 160-acre (65-hectare) wax manufacturing facility in the community also sustained heavy damage.

It was the second tornado to hit Barnsdall in five weeks — a twister on April 1 with maximum wind speeds of 90 to 100 mph (145 to 161 kph) damaged homes and blew down trees and power poles.

Before Monday night’s powerful tornado touched down, the National Weather Service had warned that “a large and life-threatening tornado” north of Tulsa was headed toward Barnsdall and the nearby town of Bartlesville.

At the Hampton Inn in Bartlesville, several splintered 2x4s were driven into the south side of the building. Chunks of insulation, twisted metal and other debris were scattered over the hotel’s lawn, and vehicles in the parking lot were heavily damaged with blown-out windows.

Hotel guest Matthew Macedo said he was ushered into a laundry room to wait out the storm.

“When the impact occurred, it was incredibly sudden,” he said.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who toured the twister’s damage on Tuesday, said it was rated by weather researchers as a violent tornado with winds reaching up to 200 mph (322 kph). Stitt said he and legislative leaders have agreed to set aside $45 million in this year’s budget to help storm-damaged communities.

“Oklahomans are resilient,” Stitt said, “and we’re going to rebuild.”

Areas in Oklahoma, including Sulphur and Holdenville, are still recovering from a tornado that killed four and left thousands without power late last month.

The powerful storms come amid a wild swing in severe weather across the globe that includes some of the worst-ever flooding in Brazil and a brutal Asian heat wave.

Across the U.S., the entire week is looking stormy. The eastern U.S. and the South are expected to get the brunt of the bad weather through the rest of the week, including in Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis and Cincinnati — cities where more than 21 million people live. It should be clear over the weekend.


Murphy reported from Oklahoma City. Associated Press journalists around the country contributed to this report, including Rio Yamat, Heather Hollingsworth, Colleen Slevin, Jim Salter, Kathy McCormack, Sarah Brumfield and Beatrice Dupuy.


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