At least 120K customers left without power after tornadoes spin through Detroit area

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DETROIT — Metro Detroit is once again left reeling from damage done by heavy rains.

The southeast Michigan area, still recovering from flooding over a week ago, accumulated another 1-2 inches of rain during a wave of storms Saturday afternoon and evening, said National Weather Service White Lake Township meteorologist Megan Varcie, leading to flooding on southbound M-10 and other areas.

The National Weather says tornadoes struck near Detroit and Flint on Saturday evening.

The two EF-1 tornadoes touched down in Genesee County's Clayton Township around 6:30 p.m. and in Oakland County around 7:45 p.m., the weather service said Sunday.

Damage from both storms was consistent with winds of 100 mph touched down in Oakland County around 7:45 p.m., the weather service said Sunday. Both twisters traveled about 1.8 miles, damaging trees. One person suffered minor injuries.

About 121,328 DTE customers were without power as of 2:45 p.m. Sunday, according to the DTE outage center.

Though most flooding was cleared overnight, all lanes of southbound M-10 were still blocked Sunday morning, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation. M-10 fully reopened by the afternoon.

Other tornadoes awaiting confirmation

The weather service received reports of tornadoes Saturday night in Port Austin, Armada and Oakland County. The tornado in White Lake has been confirmed by the weather service, but the other two locations are still awaiting confirmation. Varcie said Sunday that the weather service was sending a storm survey team to each location to verify, look at the damage and determine the intensity.

“The difference between your ordinary thunderstorms and tornadic thunderstorms is going to be the amount of wind shear in the atmosphere,” Varcie said. “So it's basically, if you can get a rotating thunderstorm, which we call a supercell. If you can get any rotation within thunderstorms, that makes conditions more favorable for tornadoes to form.”

Oakland County, which encompasses the Detroit metro area, received reports of tornadoes, flooding, blocked roads and structural damage to homes and businesses, according to a news release.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation to support the safety of all residents in Oakland County,” Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said in the release. “We urge all residents to report downed wires and stay away from standing water.”

One Twitter user shared a photo of a BP station in Madison Heights with its canopy tipped over.

DTE had more than 500 crews in the field and “will be working around the clock to restore power to impacted customers as quickly and safely as possible,” the utility reported on its website.

Most Consumers Energy customers in Michigan who lost power Saturday night had regained it Sunday morning, said spokesperson Brian Wheeler. But about 7,098 customers were still without power as of Sunday afternoon. Wheeler said most of the outages are scattered, occurring in Genesee County, as well as Saginaw, Bay City and Midland.

“The biggest issue in cases like this are wind gusts,” Wheeler said. “Usually when you get winds that top 50 miles per hour, that's where you begin to see not just trees that are near power lines, but you could have entire trees or branches falling a great distance.”

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Outside of Detroit, Armada Township declared a state of emergency and is facing significant damage to homes and businesses after being hit by a suspected tornado Saturday night, said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel in a Sunday afternoon news conference.

There are no reported injuries or deaths, he said.

First responders accessing damage

Hackel said that National Weather Service was on the ground, investigating as he spoke, but that he and city officials are considering it to be a tornado based on the patterns of debris and wind.

Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said those who aren’t from the area shouldn’t come “just to take a look” and that it’s hard for first responders to do what they need to do with visitors trying to get a look at the damage.

Each speaker at the conference emphasized how important each and every unit was in helping mitigate the impact of the tornado and stressed the value of community.

“If responding to emergency situations or disasters were an Olympic sport, this team here behind me would have won gold,” Hackel said.

The biggest challenge facing the village is the lack of electricity –– it’s a small town and it’s hard to keep the food good, according to John Paterek, Armada Township supervisor.

DTE spokesperson Stephanie Beres said it’s hard to know exactly how long it will take crews to restore power, but added that it will likely be Monday at the soonest.

“We’ve got more than 100 employees out in the field right now working to assess the damage, working to restore power where we're able to, and continuing to clean up the mess that was created by the weather pattern last night,” Beres said. “We will continue to work around the clock to get power restored as quickly as they can. We’re hoping to get the fire station and some of our critical care facilities, i.e. the nursing home just down the street, back up and running as soon as possible.”

Detroiters should get a little break from the rain for the next few days, Varcie said, with the forecast predicting highs in the upper 80s and sunny skies through Tuesday.

Contributing: Associated Press.

Follow Emma Stein on Twitter: @_emmastein.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan tornadoes: More than 120K without power after twisters strike

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