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More than 110 homes damaged as tornado touches down near Ann Arbor, Michigan

A series of tornadoes tore through southeastern Michigan Thursday, damaging more than 100 homes and sending people racing for cover. The Weather Channel's Mike Seidel reports.

Updated at 7:58 a.m. ET: A tornado ripped through a rural Michigan community Thursday evening, damaging or demolishing many homes, downing trees and power lines, sparking fires and flooding roads.

A dispatcher with the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department told Reuters that "there are homes leveled" in Dexter, which is located northwest of Ann Arbor. The Detroit Free Press linked to a YouTube video of a twister.


Sheriff's spokesman Derrick Jackson told The Associated Press that 105 homes were significantly damaged in Dexter and the surrounding area, and 13 were destroyed.

Washtenaw County Sheriff's Deputy Ray Yee was first on the scene when he noticed a solitary hand sticking out of the rubble of a destroyed home. He said he reached for the hand and pulled out an elderly man who was shaken but able to walk.

"That's the best part," Yee told the AP. "Every place I went to, I would have thought I would have found somebody laying there - deceased or whatever. But, knock on wood, everybody was OK."

Officials said around 200 people were displaced and a temporary shelter was opened at a nearby middle school. Police and fire crews were going door to door to check for any victims.

Thunderstorm watches and warnings were in effect for several counties in southeast Michigan, said ClickOnDetroit, the website for NBC station WDIV. 

There were multiple reports of funnel clouds and two reports of touchdowns in Monroe County, Emergency Management Director Mark Hammond said. There, a funnel cloud moved across the expressway and badly damaged one home and turned over several vehicles.

In Washtenaw County, where Dexter is located, the tornado started as a thunderstorm watch, which turned into a thunderstorm warning, then a tornado warning – a series of warnings that extended for an hour and a half.

Aerial footage shows at least a dozen homes were heavily damaged when a tornado touched down in Dexter, Mich.

Marc Breckenridge, director of Emergency Management for Washtenaw County, told weather.com that there were no initial reports of injuries. "We've got public safety crews out right now being very thorough to make sure that everyone is accounted for," he added. 

Emergency management officials told NBC News that the county is a "storm-ready community" that has invested in an outdoor weather alarm and that takes storm preparation seriously.

Softball-sized hail
Thunderstorms also produced softball-sized hail near Flint, Mich., weather.com reported. "We've had several large hail reports," meteorologist Amos Dodson added.

Forecasters also issued a severe storm watch on Thursday afternoon for parts of Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, warning of possible large hail, wind gusts of up to 70 miles an hour and dangerous lightning in a region raked by deadly tornadoes less than two weeks ago.

In Chicago, the official temperature at O'Hare International Airport on Thursday afternoon was 79 degrees, 5 degrees above the previous record for the day, and Indianapolis topped out at 80 degrees, 3 degrees above the old record.

In Washington, D.C., temperatures reached an all-time high, and in less than a week more than 900 new record highs have been tied or broken. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Dave Samuhel, a meteorologist at Accuweather.com said the warm air covering much of the country's midsection was helping fuel the storms the Weather Service warned about on Thursday.

"It's just so warm that we're seeing thunderstorms pop up like popcorn the way you see it in the summertime," he said.

'Warming up mighty early' across parts of US

Accuweather.com said the unseasonably warm weather west of the Plains would continue into next week and spread further east into places like New York City, where residents were experiencing a more typical spring day on Thursday as winds out of the northeast kept daytime highs in the 40s.

Weather.com, msnbc.com staff, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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