Tornados tear across eastern US, killing Michigan toddler

LIVONIA, Mich. (AP) — Tornado-spawning storms tearing across the eastern U.S. killed a toddler in a Detroit suburb and injured at least five in Maryland on Wednesday and left another eight people hurt in Ohio early Thursday.

A suspected tornado ripped away a gas station canopy and heavily damaged a restaurant and a discount store early Thursday in the eastern Ohio village of Frazeysburg. Eight people suffered minor injuries, mostly from flying debris, said Jeff Jadwin, the emergency management director in Muskingum County.

The storm’s path followed the village’s main street, leaving a trail of uprooted trees and damaged homes from one end to the other, he said. He estimated that at least 100 homes were hit, several of which were destroyed. The village of 1,500 people is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Columbus.

Officials in Livonia, Michigan, said the tornado tore through several neighborhoods on Wednesday afternoon and developed so quickly that there was no advance notice from the National Weather Service or others that would have normally led to the activation of warning sirens.

The storm uprooted a massive tree that fell on one family’s house and came through the roof, landing on a bed where a woman and her 2-year-old were sleeping, officials said in a post on the city’s website. Crews worked for nearly an hour to remove the roof and parts of the tree and then lift the tree to get the victims out.

The toddler was pronounced dead at the scene, officials said. The mother was transported to a local hospital in critical condition.

A 2-week-old sibling who was in a crib in a separate room was not injured but taken to a hospital for an evaluation, Livonia Fire Department Chief Robert Jennison told WDIV-TV.

“This is a terrible tragedy for our community,” Mayor Maureen Miller Brosnan said in the statement. “Our hearts are broken, too, and we send our deepest sympathies.”

The weather service in Detroit confirmed on the social platform X that an EF1 tornado with a peak wind speed of 95 mph (153 kph) moved through Livonia. The agency said the twister traveled a path spanning over 5 miles (8 kilometers), uprooting trees and damaging some homes.

A representative from the weather service called it a spin-up storm that didn’t show up on their radars in enough time to issue a warning, according to city officials.

By late morning Thursday, 14,000 customers lacked power in southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy said.

It has been a grim spring for tornadoes in the U.S., where severe weather killed at least 24 people during the Memorial Day holiday weekend alone. April had the second-highest number of tornadoes on record in the country. The storms come as climate change contributes in general to the severity of storms around the world.

Tornado warnings were issued for parts of several other states on Wednesday night, including Ohio, New Jersey and Delaware. In New Hampshire’s Seacoast area, storms took down trees and caused power outages.

In suburban Maryland, emergency workers responded to reports that people were trapped inside collapsed structures after a tornado hit Wednesday night, felling trees, damaging buildings and downing power lines. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson Pete Piringer said the most significant damage occurred when a large tree fell on a house in Gaithersburg, injuring five people who were taken to hospitals, including one with traumatic injuries, he said. No serious injuries were reported at the other structures.

“We got incredibly lucky in Montgomery County, with two different tornadoes coming during the peak of rush hour, evening rush hour, and people home, having dinner in their homes,” Earl Stoddard, director of the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security, said at a briefing on Thursday morning. “We were just very fortunate that the damage in Montgomery County was not substantially worse.”

The focus Thursday is on cleaning up and opening up the roads that are still closed and helping families whose homes need significant repairs, Stoddard said.

There were nine different areas with possible tornadic damage in Maryland that crews will survey, looking at whether there was one tornado that skipped along or different tornadoes, according to Kevin Rodriguez, lead meteorologist at the weather service office in Sterling, Virginia. The office issued 22 tornado warnings Wednesday, the fourth-most issued in a single day by the office that covers much of Maryland, the District of Columbia, northern Virginia and the eastern West Virginia panhandle, Rodriguez said.

In West Virginia’s Berkeley and Jefferson counties, there were images of what were probably tornadoes on the ground, Rodriguez said. Based on video, he said they can confirm four Maryland tornadoes, two in Montgomery County, one in the Arbutus area south of Baltimore and another in northern Maryland near Carroll County Regional Airport in Westminster. Those areas still have to be surveyed over the next few days to see how strong they were.

While tornadoes aren’t unheard of in the region, they are relatively rare, especially outbreaks of the volume seen Wednesday night. Forecasters had warned earlier in the day of the potential for severe weather, including possible tornadoes, but the twisters came as somewhat of a surprise.

“It was a very busy night,” said National Weather Service Hydrologist Jeremy Geiger. “It’s one of those things, all the right ingredients that come together at the right time. So that’s always the question.”

Geiger said it wasn’t a super high-energy storm system, but the wind shear and other factors gave it a boost and created the rotation that allows tornadoes to form. He said the system was especially challenging because forecasters were issuing flash flood warnings and tornado warnings simultaneously, with some residents being advised to seek high ground and others sheltering in the basement.

Geiger said his office would likely review the events of Wednesday night and use them as a training tool for staff.

In Gaithersburg, George Mhaano told WJLA-TV that a crane might be needed to lift a tree off his home, so he would probably stay at a hotel. When the tornado hit, Mhanno said he heard loud thuds and banging on the window, so he hid in a bathtub. Later, firefighters came knocking and told him to get out and he did.

“Thank God, I wasn’t hurt and, thank God, everyone at my house was at church,” Mhaano told WJLA-TV. “This is just material. It can be replaced or fixed. No one got hurt, so that’s all that matters.”

In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, fires at two homes on opposite ends of the city were believed to have been started by lightning strikes that happened within 15 minutes of each other, Fire Chief William McQuillen said. Both homes were damaged and one was considered uninhabitable. No injuries were reported.


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