Michigan — March 19, 2012 at 10:53 am

Dexter Tornado update


We actually got lucky

The clean-up after the monster, record-breaking F3 tornado that hit the village of Dexter where I live continued apace over the weekend. Most of the damaged homes in the Huron Farms subdivision have been shored up, their roofs covered with blue tarps and windows & doors boarded up.

By way of an update:

  • Over a hundred volunteers pitched in over the weekend to remove downed trees and debris, according to the Dexter Patch.
  • Schools are back open again this morning.
  • Dexter Township has allocated $200,000 to help with the clean-up.
  • Nobody (nobody!) was seriously hurt in this storm. Not one person needed to be moved in an ambulance. I heard of one story of a person helping an elderly gentleman to the basement who was under their care. On their way to the basement, the storm tore the top of the house off yet they sustained no injuries. Amazing.
  • The Dexter Fire Department is reporting that almost 200 homes were damaged.
    Loren Yates, chief of the Dexter Area Fire Department, said Monday that approximately 197 homes in the village and Dexter Township sustained damage from a strong weather system in southeast Michigan that produced three confirmed twisters, causing millions of dollars in property damage but claimed no lives.

    At least 20 homes will have to be demolished in the Dexter area.
    “That number could go higher,” Yates told The Detroit News on Monday.
    The rubble of one home in the hard-hit Huron Farms subdivision already has been removed. All that remains is the foundation.

    Update: it’s been upgraded to 207 homes.

Still, Dexter Village got lucky. How lucky? Look at this map of the path of the tornado which spawned the earliest F3 twister to ever hit Michigan:

Click for a larger version

The yellow arrow shows where the tornado would have gone if it hadn’t suddenly diverted before it hit the village. Had it not diverted, it would have gone right through the downtown area. I live near the red “X”.

One very sad part of this is that dozens of ancient oak trees the lined Dexter-Pinckney Road (D-19) have been destroyed. D-19 remains closed this morning and I’m told the Hudson Mills golf course may not open this year due to the damage. The loss of these stately old trees is tragic. My commute to work is sure to look quite different after this.

I was personally very lucky. In addition to our home sustaining no damage, I realized this morning how close I personally came to being in the middle of the worst of it when I read this report on AnnArbor.com:

The tornado first touched down at 5:17 p.m. northeast of North Territorial and Dexter Townhall roads. At that point, it was what the weather service classifies as an EF-1 tornado, with winds of about 100 mph. It uprooted trees and caused minor roof damage, the weather service said.

The weather service rates tornadoes on the Enhanced Fujita Scale from EF-0 to EF-5. An EF-1 storm has winds of 86 to 110 mph. The weather service said Friday that the Dexter tornado was an EF-3 storm at its strongest point and covered a path 7.2 miles long and up to 800 feet wide.

The tornado then hit the Horseshoe Bend subdivision with EF-2 winds of 120 mph, causing structural damage to the outside of homes. It moved southeast along Dexter-Pinckney Road and intensified to an EF-3 storm at 5:31 p.m. The storm, by now packing winds of 135 to 140 mph, destroyed a home northwest of Dexter.

I had literally driven through that area about 15 minutes before that.

I want to give shout-outs to a few groups. First, Busch’s, the local grocery store, was on the scene immediately, delivering food, water and other supplies. They have continued to help out impacted families with food, drinks, and storage space in their freezers & coolers. Here’s a truck full of supplies leaving their store on Saturday:

DTE and their crews have been tirelessly working to restore power and, in many cases, this means the installation of new utility poles that were knocked down in the storm.

The Dexter Patch and AnnArbor.com have been providing stellar coverage.

Finally, the people of Dexter and the surrounding area that pitched in as volunteers to clear the debris and help out deserve a round of applause. It’s heartwarming to see a community pull together like this.

For pictures and some interactive panoramic images from the hardest-hit areas, visit my wife’s Politics in Pictures site.

[Original aerial map courtesy of the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office.]