Photo by John Schneider | The Advertiser This barn was one of several buildings destroyed by the EF2 tornado that touched down Saturday near Port Austin in Huron County. It was located on the south side of Grindstone Road, about a half mile east of M-53.

PORT AUSTIN There wasn’t a tornado warning within 100 miles when a twister touched down Saturday near A.J. Connors’ Port Austin Township home.

“We knew there were tornado warnings, but it was supposed to happen south of here,” he said. “Then the lights went out, it got dark, and the winds picked up. I was looking out the window and I just saw this white cloud come down and that was it.”

Connors and family members rushed into the bathroom.

“We huddled for a minute, came out, and it was all over,” Connors said.

Connors lives on Independence Avenue in Huron County’s Port Austin Township – in the tip of the Thumb – about one mile south from Lake Huron. His house is about 100 feet north of Grindstone Road, where the worst of the damage occurred.

On Sunday, the National Weather Service in Oakland County confirmed an EF2 tornado, with winds maxing out at 120 mph, carved a 6.9-mile path through northern Huron County. It was about 400 yards wide at its widest point. It touched down at 5:49 p.m., about four miles southwest of Port Austin, according to the NWS, and at about 6 p.m., continued into Lake Huron about four miles east of Port Austin.

No one was killed by the tornado, but six people were injured, according to the NWS. Several houses were severely damaged and a couple of buildings – including a home – were destroyed.

“We lost our front porch, we lost the gazebo, it blew the doors open and pushed the back wall out some …” Connors said. “We lost our shed, that’s what’s laying against (the neighbor’s) garage.”

The home of the neighbors who live behind the Connors family, in the 300 block of Grindstone Road (M-25), was obliterated. All that remained was its cement foundation. Unrecognizable pieces of wood and personal belongings were scattered throughout the area, mixed together with pieces of other homes damaged by the storm.

Much of the debris near the house was charred due to a fire that occurred shortly after the tornado passed.

“(The tornado) landed on his house and pretty much removed it,” Connors said. “He had an RV and the tornado picked it up and set it on where the house was and I think that’s what started the fire.”

The homeowner and his wife were among the injured, Connors said.

Dozens of utility trucks lined Grindstone Road, about a half mile to a mile east of M-53, Monday morning as workers began replacing power lines and utility poles. Most of the property damage was along that stretch. DTE Energy, Motor City Electric Co. and Xtreme Powerline Construction of Port Huron were among the companies assisting with restoring power.

Longtime Port Austin-area resident Kyle Gembarski said there was no reason Saturday to suspect severe weather was on the horizon.

“It was nothing, until it was something,” said Gembarski, who was helping residents with the clean-up process. “My father has lived here for 50 years and said he’s never seen anything like this.”

At about 4 p.m. Saturday, the NWS issued a tornado watch, lasting until 10 p.m., for several mid-Michigan and southeast Lower Peninsula counties, including Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac counties. At 4:44 p.m., a tornado warning was issued for Bay County. The storm system didn’t produce a tornado in Bay County and continued over the Saginaw Bay into Huron County where it didn’t garner a tornado warning.

“If I would have suspected this was going to happen, we would have vacated,” Connors said. “It was just like that movie ‘Twister,’ it happened so fast. It was on us like that, and it was over just as quickly.”

There were 16 tornado warnings in Michigan Saturday and, as of Monday afternoon, the NWS confirmed that five tornadoes touched down in the state. The Port Austin tornado was the most powerful, reaching a 2 rating on the Enhanced Fujita scale. The EF scale is used to estimate wind speeds of a tornado by the amount of damage left in its wake. The lowest rating is EF0 and the highest is EF5. An EF2 tornado has winds speeds of between 111 and 135 mph, causing “considerable” damage.

The last time a tornado touched down in Huron County was Nov. 6, 2015, when an EF0 with windspeeds of 85 MPH struck just south of Bad Axe. According to the Michigan Tornado Project, an unofficial website that contains information on all tornadoes that have struck the state between 1950 and 2012, Huron County has seen 12 twisters in that time. Only one, an EF2 that struck on July 4, 1974, has been as strong as Saturday’s tornado, making the recent tornado potentially the strongest Huron County has seen in at least 70 years.

Up until Saturday, only one tornado-caused injury has been reported in Huron County, according to Michigan Tornado Project.

“I never saw anything like this before and I don’t want to experience anything like it again,” Connors said.