Tornado causes garage to fall on Cass County man

The latest estimate shows that a total of 35 buildings in Cass County, Michigan were damaged by a tornado early Sunday morning.

The estimate comes from David L. Smith of Cass County Emergency Management.

The twister cut a path about three miles long. It started about a half mile from Southwestern Michigan College and traveled south—south east to M-62.

The worst damage was recorded in the 57-thousand block of M-62 where Mitch Hessinger’s garage collapsed.

Unfortunately, Hessinger was inside the garage at the time. “I was in the garage doing some work,” Hessinger said, “And up until then, it was just a garden variety storm. I mean a little lightning, thunder, hardly any wind, not even much rain.”

Hessinger says he was at the back door of the garage when things changed quickly. “And the service door blew open. I tried to close it, I couldn't close it, the next thing I knew the bottom panel of my front overhead door blew out, and then the whole garage exploded and came down on top of me.”

Hessinger said he thought he was going to die. “I thought they would find me in Three Rivers in pieces,” he said.

Hessinger believes that his location saved his life.
“But being in the doorway I think is what saved me, like on the cartoons where the whole wall falls but the guy's standing because of the doorway.”

Today, tree removal crews were working hard to clear the yard of the Hessinger home. “Every tree on the property is either down or snapped off,” Mitch Hessinger said, although his home was not seriously damaged.

In the 57-thousand block of Wilbur Hill Road the wind was strong enough to rip one wall off of a barn, yet some of the items inside were undisturbed.

“I looked out and the barn side was off,” said Betty McCabe. “And I didn’t hear it, but I didn’t have my hearing aids on.”

On the south side of the McCabe home, about a half dozen tall evergreen trees were uprooted, yet the home itself—was not damaged.

“You're grateful, you're grateful that you can wake up in the morning, you know. You just say hey look at this, there are some miracles still going on, our house is still here,” said Betty McCabe.

The McCabe’s did lose a car. Their Jeep Cherokee was totaled after being struck by falling tree branches.

Near the corner of M-62 and Twin Lakes Road, the Huggins home had a big blue tarp covering part of the roof.

In this case, the culprit was not falling tree limbs but atmospheric pressure.

“There was a couple of contractors here, they say it was from the pressure,” said Norm Hutchins. “It snapped the trusses on the inside and my ceilings are all sagging in the house now. It’s just from pure pressure, the wind pressure.”

Norm Hutchins seemed more concerned about the property next door.

The Van Riper Cemetery suffered heavy damage after trees and tombstones were toppled.

“People need to stay out of there until somebody cleans the mess up,” Hutchins said. “It just, they're dead leave them lay there.”

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