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Mom says tornado was right behind her as she drove to safety

By Kendall Keys and James Paxson

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    GAYLORD, Michigan (WNEM) — One person is confirmed dead and at least 44 are injured after a tornado left a trail of destruction in the northern Michigan city of Gaylord Friday afternoon.

Officials say multiple homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged. The extent of those injured are not yet known.

“When I try to recall it, it’s just such a blur, because it just happened so fast,” said Gaylord resident Celeste Feole.

At 3:38 p.m., Feole’s phone lit up with a tornado warning.

“And it was here before 4:00,” Feole said.

Feole was in her car with her three children.

“We were driving east to take shelter. And as I was driving through town, I can see all the debris flying, and through my rearview mirror, I could literally see the swirl and the eye of the tornado was like right behind us,” Feole said.

The tornado passed right through where her husband was working.

“They were just, ‘I want to see dad, is dad okay?’ because my husband was right where it hit,” Feole said.

She had moments of panic as she was trying to reach her husband with spotty cell service.

“I am so worried. The service was so hard. I couldn’t get messages in or out,” Feole said.

Her husband was safe and not injured by the tornado.

“Thank God they have a brick building. He works at ABC Warehouse. All the buildings around him are all the photos I took today. The other places are like completely gone. Ripped off of the ground and the buildings are torn down,” Feole said.

Feole is a photographer. After it was safe, she drove to the aftermath to document the destruction.

“We were shook. I am speechless. Like, I can’t believe I am seeing this with my very eyes,” Feole said.

She cannot help but worry about the community after documenting so much damage.

“Families are going to worry about, ‘what are we going to do for work?’ because all of our small businesses, the restaurants, the buildings, it’s just a shock,” Feole said.

She says her tight-knit community is resilient.

“We’re worried about our community, for sure. I just know that we’re going to stand up, we’re going to rebuild, we’re going to get back up,” Feole said.

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