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Tornado rips through Williamston into Livingston County, forces closure of I-96


Tree slammed into a house on Mason Road, south of I-96. Courtesy of Briana Fisher

An EF1 tornado touched down near Williamston Thursday night as a cell of severe thunderstorms moved across mid-Michigan, including Livingston County, with 90 mph winds overturning trucks and small vehicles while bringing down hundreds of trees and power lines.

Five fatalities have been linked to the storm. One person was reported to have been killed on I-96 near Williamston Road in Ingham County in an incident involving more than 25 vehicles. Meanwhile, three people, a mother and two children, were reported to have been killed in a car crash near Cedar Springs during the storm, while one person died in Lansing when a tree fell on their home.

Barn collapse near Webberville – Christie Showerman – Facebook

At 9:37 p.m., the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a Tornado Warning for Central Livingston County after a “large and extremely dangerous tornado” was located by radar near “Williamston, or near Fowlerville, moving east at 40 mph.”

Car damaged in Livingston County – Courtesy of Mary Fraker-Reed

The National Weather Service Office in Detroit said the tornado warning was based on the “strength of the rotation and debris signature” while it was over Ingham County.

“A confirmed tornado, causing EF1 damage with winds up to 90 mph entered Livingston county last night near West Branch Red Cedar River,” said the NWS in a tweet Friday morning. “The tornado tracked east-northeast to I96. The storm survey is still ongoing and more details will be released later today.”

However, officials with the Northeast Ingham Emergency Services Authority (NIESA) said 15 residents were evacuated from the Haven of Rest Senior Care Living near Williamston due to wind damage to the facility. Only one minor injury was reported there.

Officials shut down I-96 in both directions from exit 117 near Williamston east toward the Livingston County line due to power lines across the freeway, with many vehicles forced to the shoulder with damage.

“I-96, both eastbound and westbound between Williamston Rd and M-52 are closed due to overturned vehicles,” said Michigan State Police.  “Avoid the area and find another route.  Unknown on when the road will open.”

Nearly overturned semi on I-96 near Williamston – Ingham County Emergency Management

Meanwhile, more than 28,000 homes and businesses are without power Friday due to the storm. Approximately 21,700 are DTE customers, while another 6,600 are with Consumers Power. They are among more than 457,000 outages statewide. Restoration times have yet to be estimated.

Downed power line in Livingston County – Casey Yost

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