Mobile homes flipped, roofs torn off after Thursday’s storm hits Monroe area

MONROE COUNTY, MI – An overnight storm that caused at least two deaths in a swath of Michigan dealt severe damage to a mobile home community on the shores of Lake Erie Thursday night.

Residents at Frenchtown Villa near the city of Monroe awoke late Thursday to the sound of a tornado siren and lost power just moments before gusts up to 100 miles per hour descended on their community. On the northern end of the park, one trailer was flipped onto another, and another nearby home saw its roof entirely ripped off.

The National Weather Service in Detroit confirmed that an EF-1 tornado struck the community.

The tornado had estimated peak winds of 100 mph and traveled about five miles. It began about two miles south of Grafton.

Resident Breanna Asher said she and her children awoke to the feeling of their home shaking and rushed to the bathroom at the center of the trailer. When she made her way outside, she saw her neighbor’s home had flipped onto another and feared the worst.

Related: Tornado ‘tossed around’ 17 semis, toppled billboards, sheared off treetops along I-96

Although the storm caused significant damage to property, Frenchtown Township Fire Chief Wendy Stevens said no residents suffered serious injuries. Calls to 911 first came in around 10:50 p.m. with residents reporting the smell of natural gas. When the department’s six full time firefighters responded with mutual aid partners, they found several homes had been “devastated.”

“All the residents in those homes that were affected were able to self-extricate,” she said. “I think we’re blessed - there are roofs missing, walls missing, people’s cars relocated feet away from where they’d parked them.”

Residents Mike and Patricia Laura said they had been tracking the storm before going to bed and heard distant sirens before abruptly losing power. Moments later, their home began to shake and the aluminum flag pole that Mike Laura says has served as his “wind sock” in foul weather was ripped from the ground.

On Friday morning, the pair were outside their home surveying the damage. Like other residents, the skirting along the base of their home had been ripped away, exposing the framework on which the trailer sits chained to the ground. Patches of shingles had been ripped from their roof, and a loose kayak alongside their undamaged shed had been thrown underneath their neighbor’s home. Their award-winning landscaping and patio decorations had been scattered across the lawn.

“I almost cried - I still get emotional,” Mike Laura said. “I’ve put so much work into this place.”

High winds downed trees and damaged many other homes in the park, and cleanup was underway Friday as Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist visited to survey the damage. After reviewing live aerial footage from a Monroe County Sheriff’s Department drone, Gilchrist remarked at the ferocity of the storm.

“We’re thankful that these families only had minor injuries, but I know that the mental and emotional strain of this - not to mention financial - is going to be significant,” Gilchrist said.

Stevens said that Frenchtown Township had coordinated with the local Hampton Inn hotel to relocate residents whose homes were too damaged to use, with the Red Cross stepping in to provide additional temporary housing. About 30 homes were severely damaged by the storm, she said.

Sun Management, the company that operates the park, provided residents with bottled water, snacks and ice and coordinated with Carleton-based food truck Whiskey Jack’s BBQ to offer free food to residents.

“As a community, everyone is stepping up to help,” Stevens said. “It’s a strong community and I’m really glad that everyone can work together.”

More severe weather coverage from MLive:

5 dead, several injured, widespread damage after storms tear across Michigan

More than 113,000 without power after storm blows across Michigan

Where Michigan roads are closed for debris, storm cleanup

Damage reported in West Michigan from storm, possible tornado

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

Intense storm downs power lines, knocks out power to 29K in Jackson County

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