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Confirmed tornado damages multiple homes in Riga

Severe storms Sunday night and Monday morning caused damage across our area and knocked out power to thousands of people.
Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 6:51 PM EDT
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RIGA, Mich. (WTVG) - The National Weather Service confirms that the severe weather in Lenawee County Sunday night, into Monday morning, was caused by an EF-1 tornado.

NWS said Monday that the tornado touched down around 9:23 p.m. and traveled almost three miles in a four minute period, damaging five homes, multiple other buildings, as well as uprooting trees and knocking down power lines.

Brian and Kaye Bowman were at home Sunday night. Brian was in a bedroom near the front of the house. Kaye was in the kitchen.

Mrs. Bowman tells 13abc, “As soon as I started pulling things out of the fridge, there was just that feeling that you’re going to be sucked in.

She says she heard the typical freight train roar that tornado survivors describe, and then chaos.

“There was a big boom or crash, and everything just shattered, and walls, the plaster started coming down from where my husband was,” she recalls. “I thought for sure our windows were going to go, and some of them did in the bedroom.”

She says she didn’t have time to get to her husband or shelter.

Bowman says, “I just fell to the floor, did what we were taught in elementary school, and covered my face, and went to my knees.”

After a moment, it was over.

“To me, it was like, two seconds I was in the kitchen, the next three seconds it all happened, and then it was done.”

Her husband has mobility issues, so he couldn’t get out of the bedroom. “We were calling for each other, you know, ‘are you still there?’” she says. “I finally got myself up and we found each other.”

First responders told the Bowmans that their home wasn’t safe to stay in, so they left. They returned to see the damage Monday morning.

Seeing the damage for the first time, Bowman tells 13abc, “It’s definitely a shock. It’s like we’re not here, this is a story – a movie on TV.”

And now, they’re picking up the pieces.

“Thank God that it was okay and now we kind of have to take things a day at a time,” she says.

The Bowmans are being assisted by the Red Cross. As of Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service had not confirmed if the damage was caused by a tornado or straight-line winds.

A mile away, Wendell Goetz says he slept through the storm and woke up to a huge mess of tree limbs Monday morning. His home saw broken winds and a sheared-off chimney.

“Man, it’s on top of the house! And it took off that chunk of the chimney. That was a well-made chimney,” Goetz tells 13abc.

“Oh, it broke the window. Oh my gosh, I heard my daughter say something about the window broke, oh and it hit the house too. Took the tin off there, I didn’t even know that.”

Goetz says he’s lived on Riga Highway for decades and says he’s never seen a mess like the one left by Sunday night’s severe weather.

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