Gaylord man remembers scary experience sheltering from tornado

Tornado damage in Gaylord- Photo credit Nicole Ann Boswood
Tornado damage in Gaylord- Photo credit Nicole Ann Boswood(National Weather Service)
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 5:39 PM EDT
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GAYLORD, Mich. (WNEM) - The Gaylord community is still reeling after a massive EF-3 tornado hit their small northern Michigan town killing two and injuring dozens of others.

Dark clouds hovered above Gaylord Friday afternoon before a twister destroyed several homes and businesses, and sent vehicles and other debris flying. Jerry Speckman had seconds to get himself and his family into the basement of the duplex they rent before the tornado hit them.

“The world changed in like ten seconds. It’s like, it wasn’t even recognizable out here, you know?” Speckman said.

Speckman’s place is now a total loss.

“You know, it was like a deep rumbling vibration almost, more of a, a vibration than it was a noise,” Speckman explained. “And then as it was directly on top of the house you could hear the boards ripping apart, and like wood slamming together is what it sounded like, like on a massive scale.”

He must continue living here until he can move into his friend’s trailer.

“First thing I saw in the dining room was glass was everywhere. The walls were kind of crooked and cracked and whatnot, and I came outside, and I had 300-year-old maples standing there. What’s left of them is now down on the ground,” Speckman said.

Speckman’s son and daughter-in-law are two of the 44 injured Friday. They are in the ICU in Traverse City with broken bones. They lived in the now almost entirely destroyed mobile home park.

“If you hear that warning, don’t waste time trying to grab your purse or wallet or pictures or anything like that. We literally, from the time the alarm to the time it went over our house was less than two minutes. There was no time to grab stuff like that, it’s not worth it,” Speckman said.

Like so many in the small town, Speckman has nothing but thanks for his neighbors.

“The community’s been great, I mean, everybody, within an hour of the storm passing there were people out there cleaning the streets, and bulldozers, plow trucks, and whatnot,” Speckman said.

For now, Speckman will be calling around to FEMA and other agencies to try and get all the help he can.