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Thousands Without Power After Tornadoes Tear Through Michigan

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Aug. 24 Uprooted trees lean against the home of Dayne DeHaven after a tornado swept through Holly, Mich.AP

About 131,000 electric customers were without power Saturday after strong storms a day earlier rolled across southern Michigan, spawning at least one tornado that destroyed several homes and barns in Fenton.

Television footage showed homes with roofs torn off, and debris and downed tress scattered around. No severe injuries were reported, but Fenton Mayor Sue Osborn said the storm damage was extensive.

"I have seen houses that have trees on top of them," Osborn, who surveyed the damage, told WDIV-TV in Detroit on Saturday morning. "I have seen houses that have trees go right through them."

A message seeking updated information was left Saturday with city officials.

Consumers Energy said about 81,000 homes and businesses that it serves were without power, including 33,000 in the Kalamazoo area, while Detroit Edison said about 50,000 remained without service.

"We'll have all available crews out there," said Len Singer, a spokesman for Detroit Edison parent DTE Energy Co. "We'll be working throughout the day."

The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado in Fenton and said from three to five tornados may have hit the area. Meteorologists were trying to verify if tornadoes touched down in parts of Oakland County, southwest Lapeer County, Shiawassee County and in northeast Washtenaw County.

"We have crews going out to survey the damage," Brian Tilley, a meteorologist with the weather service in Oakland County's White Lake Township, said Saturday morning. He said they hoped to report details by day's end.

Most of Fenton, a city of about 10,000 people about 42 miles northwest of Detroit, was without power Friday night, with the south side sustaining the heaviest damage, Osborn said during a news conference Friday night.

Minor injuries were reported, primarily from traffic accidents during the storm.

Roofs were torn off homes; businesses, a community center and city offices suffered major damage; and the walls were partially blown out at a tractor supply store. The city instituted a curfew beginning at 8:30 p.m. Friday and continuing until further notice for residents and nonresidents.

Osborn said only those who live in Fenton were being allowed to enter the city. Residents were being allowed to leave, and Michigan State Police troopers had been on hand since Friday night to assist local authorities.

"We just want to make sure everyone stays safe," Osborn said.

Earlier Friday, at least one tornado also was blamed for damaging several homes and barns in the Lansing area. The line of heavy thunderstorms that spawned the tornados also flooded several highways and downed power lines and trees in mid- and southeast Michigan.

Storm damage also was reported in Livingston County.

Consumers Energy, a subsidiary of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp., said crews from Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania were assisting in the restoration effort. The utility said most were expected to have power back by Sunday night.

Since Wednesday night, Consumers Energy said more than 300,000 of its customers had lost power because of storms.

Singer said most of Detroit Edison's outages were in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. About 80,000 of its customers were without power Friday night, and the total that lost power in storms since Thursday was about 120,000.

Detroit Edison expected to work into Sunday to restore service.