The Gaylord Tornado Is Personal To Me
I wanted to take an extra day or two before writing about the horrible EF-3 tornado that ripped through Gaylord, MI last Friday afternoon, killing two people and injuring 44 others. There are hundreds of pictures and videos out there documenting the tragedy. Go see for yourself. It's chilling, awful, and scary.
I took that extra day because I needed more time to process it. Because as the title suggests, it's personal to me.
In January of 1980, when I was five years old, our family moved from Portland, MI to just west of Gaylord (on Alba Rd. just off M-32). And we lived there until August 31st of 1983. In fact, the path of the tornado passed about 1/2 mile south of the house we lived in during that time.
I also lived with my Dad just south of Gaylord when I was in between radio jobs from May of 2001 until March of 2002. And my father and stepmom spend their summers there now (they are OK, they were south of the storm path. They just lost power for almost 24 hours and had to throw some food away that spoiled, a minor inconvenience). So I'm very familiar with the area.
The town changed an awful lot from when we left in 1983 and when I went back there in 2001. The town has exploded with new businesses everywhere and even more great golf courses than there were in 1983. And the western edge of town has built up considerably. And unfortunately, that's the part of Gaylord that received the most damage.
It's amazing that the storm missed both high schools (Gaylord High and Gaylord St. Mary's) as well as the hospital just north of town. Had it hit those areas, it would have been even worse.
Seeing the videos and pictures, as well as reading the accounts of the stories (this made the New York Times, folks) of the businesses and homes damaged or destroyed brought me back to my childhood. I said to myself, or out loud:
"Hey, I remember that place!!! Look at the damage to that!!! The roof is gone!"
Or, "Holy crap!!!! That building is almost completely collapsed!!!"
Or, "Look at those damaged houses!!! I may have gone trick or treating there when I was a kid!!!"
Or, "Look at the damage to that restaurant!!! We ate there a few times, remember??!!"
It was so weird and sad to see familiar places damaged or destroyed by Mother Nature. And tornadoes are rare in Northern Michigan, as most of you know. Because of its proximity to Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and the fact that is is generally cooler Up North than it is here in Lansing.
But it had been warmer than normal in that area on Friday. And when it's warm and storms come into the area, anything can happen.
Gaylord will clean the wreckage and rebuild, and they'll prosper again. The people up there are already helping others who are in need. But the emotional scars will remain for awhile.
And if you don't know anybody that either lived there, or lives there currently...
You do now.