CLYDE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Powerful winds overturned trailers and scattered furniture, bikes and debris across an eastern Michigan campground Sunday, killing one person and injuring four others, authorities said.
A “massive” storm moved through the Fort Trodd Family Campground in St. Clair County's Clyde Township shortly after 7 p.m., Sheriff Tim Donnellon said.
Several camping trailers were blown onto their roofs and sides. Many others were damaged, including the 30-foot camper where Diana Gawronski and her husband, Ed, were when they saw the sky turning dark.
“The rain came, the wind came and that was it,” said Gawronski, 67, of Warren. The couple “hit the floor, bounced around and then it was over.” Gawronski said her camper stayed upright but suffered significant damage, including losing a screened-in room and the furniture it contained.
One trailer landed in a large pond on the private campground, which features 80 to 100 campsites about 65 miles north of Detroit. A dive team searched the water as a precaution Sunday night even after authorities said all campground visitors were accounted for.
The National Weather Service had issued multiple tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings across the southern part of the state Sunday and confirmed at least one tornado in southwest Wayne County, about 35 miles southwest of Detroit, that destroyed a couple of garages.
But officials said a tornado had not been confirmed in Clyde Township, where Fire Chief Gary May said they had no advance warning. The weather service said it would survey the St. Clair County damage Monday.
Jerry Dyer, one of the campground's managers, said he was watching the Weather Channel in his camper when he saw a high-wind warning flash on the screen. He immediately headed for the door to warn campers.
“No sooner I got to the door — kaboom! — the rain hit,” Dyer said. “It came out of nowhere.”
Donnellon said James Anderson, 75, of Mount Clemens, was killed, but the sheriff declined to released details until an autopsy was performed. Dyer said he'd gotten to know Anderson through impromptu “campfire jams” where Dyer would sing and play the guitar; Anderson would request songs from the late 1960s and 70s.
Officials said the four people hurt were taken to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.
The Red Cross was at the campground Sunday night providing aid and making arrangements for a small number of people who did not have a place to stay. Donnellon said no one was allowed back into the campground for the night.
Conrad Dzialo, 69, of Dearborn Heights, said he and his wife had left the campground to visit their grandson when he got a call from a friend about what happened. He returned to find his trailer on its side.
“I didn't realize there was so much devastation,” he said after surveying the site.