Overnight storms spawn tornadoes reports, power outages

Extreme weather and severe thunderstorms swept through Michigan overnight Tuesday, spawning reports early Wednesday of damage, power outages, and three tornadoes near Grand Blanc, Marshall and Lawton.

In a video posted to social media, lightning illuminated dark skies as rain and hail pummeled buildings and cars, but as of early morning, the National Weather Service had no reports of serious injuries or fatalities.

By 5 a.m., after the storms had passed through Michigan, the state’s two largest utilities — Consumers Energy and DTE Energy — were reporting about 15,000 customers were without electricity.

Consumers Energy, which had sent alerts as early as Tuesday morning, said crews of line workers were ready to respond quickly, reporting that about 13,000 customers had lost power, and DTE said 2,000 customers had no power.

The storms illustrated Mother Nature’s power and volatility, as sunny blue skies and record-warm temperatures in the low 70s quickly gave way to tempests that downed trees and power lines and damaged homes, businesses and automobiles.

Metro Detroit is expected to be under a weather service wind advisory until 7 p.m., with winds from the west up 20-30 mph and gusts of up to 45 mph, which could result in additional power outages.

And more bad — but not as severe — weather is forecast as a cold front moves in. Temperatures in southeast Michigan are expected to crash Wednesday, reaching 25 degrees by 5 p.m. and bringing snow showers with it.

"It’s going to turn winter today," said Cory Behnke, a weather service meteorologist in White Lake Township. "This is a pretty extreme cold front for even early spring standards. We’re seeing a roughly 50-degree temperature drop."

A weather service alert for the state’s east side issued early Wednesday morning showed a storm path from Flushing to Fraser, that included parts of Genesee and Livingston counties, most of Oakland and Macomb counties, and a corner of Wayne County.

Forecasters warned of ½-inch hail and winds and urged residents to seek shelter.

In Grand Blanc, radar showed a tornado touched down, causing serious damage to neighborhoods and potentially a General Motors facility, according to social media posts. The extent of it will become clearer in the daylight.

The weather service confirmed a tornado touched down and was sending a team to rate it, based on the Enhanced Fujita scale and a survey of the damage.

Grand Blanc police said a tornado appeared to strike at about 1:20 a.m., knocking out power to the community, but "no deaths or injuries have been reported" and urged motorists to avoid the intersection of Reid Road and Dort Highway.

On the west side of the state, the weather service also issued a tornado warning until 1:30 a.m. for Jackson and Ingham counties, and said tornadoes appeared to have touched down near Lawton, a village in Van Buren County between Benton Harbor and Kalamazoo, and near Marshall in Calhoun County.

The latter one, the weather service said, was spotted on radar and by law enforcement.

"We are most likely going to do out and survey that today," said Nathan Jeruzal, a weather service meteorologist in Grand Rapids, adding there was a report a Marshall resident may have been trapped in a home, but was "OK and expected to get out."

Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or fwitsil@freepress.com.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Rain, hail and tornadoes, hit Michigan. Next: freezing cold and snow