Residents pick up the pieces after tornado rips through Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Terri Karel teared up when she recalled what her granddaughter said to her as they sheltered in the basement and heard the sounds of the storm outside.

“The whole house shook when it hit,” Karel said. “I was watching my granddaughters and my 6-year-old granddaughter said, ‘(Grandma), the world is ending.’ It made me cry.”

Karel’s home off of Alpine Avenue and 6 Mile Road in Plainfield Township was near the path of an EF-1 tornado that touched down Thursday evening, Aug. 24, in northern Kent County.

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

The storm and tornado downed trees, branches and power lines across Alpine and Plainfield townships Thursday evening, causing widespread power outages, road closures and damage.

So far, there have been no reports of deaths or injuries from downed trees and structural collapses. It’s something Kent County sheriff’s Sgt. Eric Brunner said was “extremely fortunate.”

A woman and two young girls, however, died in a head-on crash in Kent County’s Spencer Township minutes before a tornado warning was issued Thursday. Deputies say heavy rains were a factor in the crash, but speed and alcohol are also believed to be potential factors.

Between 7 p.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday, the Kent County sheriff’s Emergency Operations Center received more than 1,100 calls, most of them reporting downed trees and power lines, Brunner said.

On an average night, the dispatch center receives between 300 and 500 calls.

The National Weather Service on Friday afternoon confirmed an EF-1 tornado reaching wind gusts of about 110 mph touched down near Peach Ridge Avenue and 6 Mile Road. The tornado then traveled east and northeast for about 9 miles before terminating just west of Rockford High School.

Kent County Sheriff’s Office personnel remain out in the county conducting an assessment of the damage in the hardest hit areas.

Search and rescue teams are accompanying those efforts as needed, and the sheriff’s Technology Services Unit is conducting aerial surveys using drones.

Karel said she was blessed that her family was unscathed by the storm.

“In all this I feel very blessed,” she said. “Like I said, you know, we weren’t hurt. I’m a Christian woman and I feel very, very blessed.”

Karel’s lawn was littered with branches big and small. A piece of the backyard gazebo laid in her front lawn. Next door, the storm lifted a trampoline into her neighbor’s yard.

Much of her home’s exterior appeared unscathed, save for bent gutters and some roof damage. One large tree limb came down across her driveway, denting her car and heavily damaging her son’s pickup truck.

“I did want that tree trimmed, but this wasn’t the plan,” she said.

At Pavilion Mobile Home Park off of Alpine Avenue just north of 6 Mile Road, downed trees smashed through at least five homes, causing significant damage. Many others had various degrees of damage.

Richie Remelts, a resident of the mobile home park, said the storm came on slow and then it went fast – “spooky fast.”

“And then I heard a lot of banging, booming and, you know, trees snapping,” Remelts said. “I had my hand on the Bible praying for everybody, you know, make sure everybody was safe.”

Read more on MLive:

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

Michigan power outages climb to 428,000 after tornado-laden storm

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

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