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Portland, Michigan Cleans Up After Devastating Tornado Strikes; 'The Freight Train Sound? It's True'

PORTLAND, Mich. (WWJ) - The sounds of chain saws and clippers could be heard with clean-up efforts underway in downtown Portland, Michigan — where a tornado damaged more than 50 structures — including three churches.

"The freight train sound? It's true...My ears popped, and within three to four minutes it was over," said Julie Wineland, who recently moved to Portland after surviving Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

She considers herself lucky.

"(It was) the second one I've lived through, and this one's probably the worst," Wineland told WWJ's Jon Hewett, adding that it's "amazing" that no one was seriously injured or killed.

Portland United Methodist Church.
Portland United Methodist Church. (credit: Jon Hewett/WWJ)

Said 20-year Portland resident Ed Barr: "God was looking out for somebody, that's for sure — a whole lot of somebodies."

The most destructive of multiple tornadoes that hit the state during two waves of storms on Monday, the National Weather Service said the twister that touched down in Portland — about 25 miles northwest of Lansing in Ionia County — was an E-1, with winds recorded at 100 miles per hour.

Five people, including two small children, had to be rescued from damaged buildings — including a Rite Aid pharmacy and a Goodwill store that lost its roof.

Portland goodwill store
A goodwill store is leveled by a tornado in Portland, Michigan. (credit: Jon Hewett/WWJ)

Portland City Manager Tutt Gorman, who has already declared a local state of emergency, said the storm hit with very little warning.

"It just came up so sudden; something I've never seen, I've never witnessed," he said. "And the sheer force and the impact was something that I can't really explain. People just need to realize that Mother Nature is huge."

Gorman said roads in the area, including Grand River Ave., have been reopened — but asked that people who don't live in the area avoid stopping by for now.

Damaged building
A building is damage by a tornado in Portland, Michigan. (credit: Jon Hewett/WWJ)

He's been pleased with the resilience he's seen throughout the community."Bricks and motor can be replaced, so...right now we're Portland Strong."

Wineland concurs.

"It's devastating, but I like to see the community come together," she said. "I mean, I've been here a year and this was probably one of the best places where I've seen a community just really come together to help everybody."

Portland - First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church in Portland, Michigan. (credit: Jon Hewett/WWJ)
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