‘All of our trees just hit the ground,’ couple says of riding out suspected tornado

UPDATE: The National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-1 tornado reaching peak wind speeds of about 110 mph touched down in Alpine and Plainfield townships.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Zach and Kim Comer had just made it back home from a quick grocery run when the sky, parts eerie yellow and black, streaked with lightning bolts and rain began to pour.

Rather than lug everything in right away and get drenched, they decided to wait in the truck in the driveway and let the storm pass.

What happened next was like something out of a movie, said Zach Comer.

“Then next thing you know, the wind just picked up. It starts raining harder,” he said. “I looked over at the neighbor’s house and I see trees and debris coming up and over it like the movie ‘Twister.’ My wife just goes, ‘Oh my God.’ We look forward and all of our trees just hit the ground.”

Kim Comer bent over the center console, with her husband covering her. The truck began to shake, and Zach Comer remembers hoping the truck wouldn’t get picked up.

Eventually, the storm lulled and the Comers made a break for it and safely got inside, spending the night in the basement. If they had returned home just a few minutes later, they wouldn’t have been able to make it past all of the downed trees on their street, or worse.

“Literally five minutes later – there’s a good chance we could be under one of those trees,” Zach Comer said.

The Comers rode out what National Weather Service officials suspect was an EF-1 tornado that ripped through parts of northern Kent County on Thursday evening, Aug. 24.

The storm and possible tornado uprooted trees, tore down branches and power lines and poles and flung debris and limbs onto homes and vehicles. Much of the damage in the county appears to be in Plainfield and Alpine townships, especially in the area east of M-37 between 6 and 7 mile roads, where the Comers live.

The storm wreaked havoc in other parts of the state, including Ingham and Livingston counties, where there was a confirmed tornado that killed at least one person. No injuries or deaths related to structural damage have been reported in Kent County.

Related: See damage from suspected EF-1 tornado that hit Grand Rapids area

As the Comers on Friday morning surveyed the damage in the backyard – now a mess of downed trees and branches and debris – their two dogs looked longingly out the sliding glass door wanting to run around.

The patio – where Zach and Kim had enjoyed the past evening before going to Meijer – was empty, its furniture now scattered. A patio rug hung in the branches of a tree outside the property line. The tree that shaded the whole patio was mangled.

The property fence lay bent and broken. Small pieces of roofing from a home two doors down ended up in their yard. The backyard shed was covered by a neighboring tree that fell on it.

Where there was once a treeline blocking sight of the neighbor behind them now was a view of a home with a six-foot hole in the sidewall and some paneling missing.

“We just can’t believe it,” Zach Comer said. “We knew all of this stuff was bad last night, but waking up this morning is – it’s just unbelievable.”

Somehow, the Comers’ home, where they have lived for about six years, was almost completely unscathed, save for some minor roof damage and a mess of leaves and mud speckles splattered all over the siding.

And while the Comers were about to begin the daunting task of cleaning everything up, they were in good spirits, pointing out some of the things oddly saved from the storm’s destruction.

Kim Comer pointed out the bird feeder that remained unbroken and attached to a crooked but still standing shepherd’s hook.

Near where a massive tree limb had split and fell, an old bird house remained standing.

“Out of all things, that bird house that’s decrepit, that’s been here before us – that thing is standing with a 4x4, and we’ve got that (limb) that’s 20 inches in diameter that didn’t make it,” Zach Comber said. “It’s just bizarre.”

Read more on MLive:

‘I thought I was going to die’: Michigan trucker escapes from rolled semi during severe storms

Thursday’s killer storms acted more like a ‘Kansas storm’ than a Michigan storm

Strong winds cause at least one mobile home to flip at Monroe trailer park

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