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Tornado rips through Kentwood

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Damage on 52nd Street. Photo by Jonathan D. Lopez

This post has been updated

Story & Photos by Jonathan D. Lopez – Staff Photographer

Late Sunday night, a tornado briefly touched down in Kentwood.  From the ground, most of the damage appeared to be inflicted on a residential neighborhood, utility lines, and a few commercial outlets. The estimated number of people without power surged to nearly 10,000 according to Consumers Energy reports.

While it was merely a short power outage for the surrounding area of Wyoming, it truly was a disaster for many families in Kentwood. A family surveying the damage mentioned how they were shocked to see the damage as their own home nearby was left unscathed. When asked if there had been a siren warning, they all replied, “No”.

Despite the lack of warning, only six people were injured.  It should be noted that this was a minor tornado, estimated to be ranked only as an EF1 as the winds were measured around 90 to 100 miles per hour.  In comparison, the often recalled Kalamazoo tornado, which killed five in 1980, was a F3.

According to Jonathan Breems, the Red Cross disaster communications associate, 62 people stayed in a temporary shelter at the Kentwood Community Center Sunday night. That number shrank to 22 Monday night.

After seeing the damage, many have expressed surprise that everyone in the tornado’s path survived and only two were injured, according to the Kentwood Fire Department. The number of injuries in Wyoming is not known, because the Fire Department could not be reached, but estimates of total injuries are between six and nine.

“I was surprised by the damage,” Breems said. “You hear on the news that it’s bad, but until you drive down there to see for yourself… There are houses torn up and hit by down trees. It’s a real shock.”

The shelter is still open if anyone needs food, water or shelter. The Red Cross is actively working with emergency management officials to meet the needs of the community. For Red Cross assistance, call (616) 285-5808.

While leaving the area, a local was pushing a shopping cart full of water bottles across the crosswalk towards the closed road.  Disasters destroy homes, but it cultivates an environment for selfless acts of service.

Sean P. Mulhall – Editor-In-Chief contributed to this report.