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Severe weather pounds SE Michigan as ‘tornadic thunderstorm’ sweeps through

Another round of severe weather, what meteorologists labeled a “tornadic thunderstorm,” pounded southeast Michigan on Thursday night, bringing more torrential rain, at least three tornado warnings, thunderstorm warnings and more power outages.

Few areas of the region were spared in the storm’s path. From Monroe County to Washtenaw County, residents were told to stay off the roads, seek shelter and prepare to hunker down.

Michigan State Police warned Thursday night that a tornado reportedly was headed eastbound toward Webberville with a “debris ball.” They advised those in the area to take shelter via a Tweet at 9:47 p.m.

About the same time, warning sirens went off in Pinckney.

“We haven’t confirmed anything,” said Megan Varcie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake Township about a tornado touching down. “There was some good rotation on the border of Ingham and Livingston counties on the radar.”

Rotation of the system looked “consistent with a tornado,” she said, but they’d have to do an assessment of damage before confirming a tornado touched down.

“We would look at the pattern of damage, so if we see trees falling in a rotating pattern, similar to the rotation of a tornado, that would be an indicator,” Varcie said. “Destroyed buildings and roofs ripped off are also indicators of tornado damage.” 

Reports of damage from the storm, even before the all clear arrived around midnight, including any unconfirmed twisters, poured in:

–A roof of a building in Williamston collapsed, indicating a “possible tornado,” the weather service said

–Cars flipped over on Interstate 96 in Williamston

–Possible tornado damage to structures and downed trees across Michigan Highway 37 at Seven Mile Road just outside of Grand Rapids. A large tree reportedly fell on a house

–In Livingston County, downed power lines and trees were reported

–In Genesee County, tree limbs with a diameter of 6 inches down near Fenton Road and North Long Lake Road in Fenton Township.

There were reports of downed trees and power lines in Clinton Township and Meridian Township, and uprooted trees in Plymouth Township.

Wind gusts topped 70 miles per hour in Charlotte in Eaton Count, and Edgemont Park in Ingham County, the weather service reported.

DTE Energy reported 162,947 customers without power early Friday; Consumers had 196,041 customers in the dark.

The Fowlerville Fire Department received 23 calls reporting downed wires and trees, firefighter Gary Cameron said. Earlier, a tornado warning was issued based on radar for an area that included Howell, Fowlerville and Cohoctah. Another tornado warning was issued for Flint, Burton and Grand Blanc.

“The radar detected a debris signature underneath the wind circulation, indicating there was debris being tossed in the air underneath the circulation,” said NWS meteorologist Steve Considine. “That is enough for us to say there is a tornado. That intense of a rotation plus a debris field, we will say there is a tornado.”

Thunderstorm watches replaced tornado warnings for south-central Wayne County, Monroe and portions of Washtenaw County before the watches were lifted and the all-clear for severe weather was issued late Thursday.

Other areas affected by the “tornadic thunderstorm” include New Boston, Inkster, Wayne, Westland, Garden City and Dearborn Heights, the weather services reported.

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