GAYLORD, Mich. (FOX 2) - Gaylord, the gateway to Northern Michigan, was hit by a deadly tornado Friday afternoon leaving 2 people dead and at least 44 injured.
"Gaylord is reeling right now. A lot of stores and restaurants are closed because there is no power in the community right now," said James Lake from MDOT's North Region.
MDOT and others are discouraging visitors this weekend. The freeway exits to Gaylord are closed to keep people from entering the area.
"Almost immediately we were trying to discourage people from coming. We were trying to clear the highway and freeway," Lake said.
The damage caused by the EF3 tornado is expansive.
"It came across a lot of the shopping, the big box stores, across the highway, the freeway and hit neighborhoods on the east side of town," Lake said.
I-75 stayed intact, but the debris scattered everywhere requires extensive cleanup.
"We kept the ramps close to N Gaylord and that was to keep people from entering the area. We were able to reopen I-75 in both directions," Lake said.
James Lake works for MDOT, but he calls Gaylord home. The sheer number of volunteers coming out to help reflects every sense of the word.
"I thought when I showed up this morning maybe there'd be a couple dozen, but there's just hundreds of people all over town; cutting trees, branches, loading debris, hauling it," Lake said.
Those looking to aid in the effort can do so without setting foot in the ravaged city.
"Red Cross would be a good one, the United Way of Otsego County is another one. E-Free Church on the Eastside is working with the Red Cross as a temp housing for those who can't return to their homes. There are a lot of uninhabitable houses right now," Lake said.
People who want to see the destructive power of Mother Nature for themselves are urged to hold off for now.
Those who are interested in aiding Gaylord following the devastation can donate below.
Michigan Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/local/michigan.html
United Way of Greater Otsego County: https://www.otsegounitedway.org/