Tornadoes in February? In the Great Lakes? Storms leave a trail of destruction

A Grand Blanc intersection that received heavy storm damage is pictured early Wednesday morning. The Grand Blanc Township Police Department said a large portion of the community was without power Wednesday. (Image via Grand Blanc Township Police Department)

By Associated Press

February 28, 2024

Severe thunderstorms with large hail and several possible rare winter tornadoes toppled trees, cut power and damaged homes in the Chicago area and other parts of the Great Lakes into Wednesday morning.

In Michigan’s Grand Blanc Township, near Flint, winds damaged subdivisions, tore up trees and uprooted gas lines in the wee hours of Wednesday. Police officers said they saw a tornado, but weather authorities have yet to confirm that.

Police and firefighters moved residents in an area of gas leaks to a firehouse, and they were allowed to return when a utility made repairs, authorities said.

“There are still numerous reports of wires down in the area,” police said. “While there is significant damage to houses in the area, no one was hurt.”

More than 100 miles to the southwest, a possible tornado damaged homes and barns and knocked down trees and power lines in Calhoun County’s Lee Township, the sheriff’s office said on Facebook. Crews cleared roads for rescue teams, but no injuries were reported.

In Geneva, in Chicago’s western suburbs, storms Tuesday evening uprooted trees and left some homes with broken windows and shorn-off doors, said Fire Chief Mike Antenore.

Geneva resident Rebecca Harrington said the storm “cycloned” into her home and collapsed its foyer area.

“The back of my house is sort of hanging off,” Harrington told WGN-TV, which reported no injuries.

Warning sirens jolted awake residents of central Ohio early Wednesday as a possible tornado hit near Columbus. Significant damage was reported at an airport in Madison County, between Dayton and Columbus. Toppled trees closed roads in the area until debris could be cleared.

At one point, over 50,000 customers in Ohio and Michigan lacked power Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.us.

If a tornado is confirmed in Grand Blanc Township, it would be only the second February tornado for that part of Michigan since recordkeeping began in 1950, following one in Wayne County on Feb. 28, 1974, said meteorologist Dave Kook, of the weather service’s Detroit office.

The warm weather and severe storms, including hail up to an inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter, on Tuesday and Wednesday are unusual for the area this time of the year, Kook said.

“This is not typical of late February by any means,” he said. “Basically, it’s kind of a month ahead of schedule for southeast Michigan.”

The weather service office that covers southwestern and central Ohio has recorded winter tornadoes almost every year since 2012.

Weather service teams will conduct surveys to confirm tornado reports around the region.

Associated Press writer Sarah Brumfield contributed to this report.

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