Collapsed buildings, 5 minor injuries after Portland tornado – WOODTV.com
PORTLAND, Mich. (WOOD) – Search-and-rescue efforts continue Monday evening after a confirmed tornado touched down in the Ionia County town, injuring five but leaving no known fatalities.
The National Weather Service says the EF-1 tornado touched down about two miles northwest of Portland on Monday afternoon and was on the ground for about 10 minutes. It lifted off the ground after hitting the downtown business district.
A mother and two small children had to be rescued by an off-duty fireman and the Portland police after they became trapped inside a Goodwill store that collapsed when the twister occurred, according to Ionia County Sheriff Dale Miller. They were not injured, officials confirmed.
>>PHOTOS: Possible tornado in Portland
Emergency crews responded to the area of E. Grand River Avenue where a number of buildings received significant damage when the possible tornado struck around 2:30 p.m., Miller confirmed to 24 Hour News 8.
During a news conference Monday afternoon, Portland Fire Chief John Baker said one structure fire was put out and numerous gas leaks were reported.
As many as 10 different departments responded to the scene, including crews from the Lansing area that are handling search and rescue efforts, Baker said. Michigan State Police are also sending a K-9 unit to perform a secondary check and to make sure no one is trapped in their homes.
People are being asked to stay away from the damage area, which includes Portland and the area slightly west of the town.
“You need to stay out of the area,” Baker said. “This area, the entire city right now, is unsecure. We’ve got structures that are not secure, we’ve got gas leaks. Stay out of the area, please. I implore you.”
“We need the public’s assistance on this,” Sheriff Miller added. “Stay out of the area, let us do our job, and hopefully we’ll be able to find that everybody’s OK.”
Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Ellen Bacca, who toured the city Monday afternoon, suspected the tornado was at least an EF-1 before it was confirmed by the NWS based on the damage she saw at churches, businesses and homes, in addition to broken trees.
A red flag, she said, was the swath of damage rather than a bullseye formation, which is what you would see caused by straight-line winds. She also said twisted debris, debris thrown around and shoved into structures — including a 2-by-4 embedded in a roof — and shattered windows caused by strong wind pressure were all signs of a tornado.