Dexter tornado

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Spring storms are returning to the Midwest.

Warm air meeting cold air is often used as an explanation for how tornadoes form, but that's a "gross oversimplification" according to Roger Edwards of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

That's how many thunderstorms form, but most of those storms don't turn into tornadoes. Edwards writes, "the truth is that we don't fully understand [how tornadoes form]."

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Dexter residents are still dealing with the aftermath of the tornado that through their town earlier this month. To help with the healing process, one woman has set up an outdoor art studio for kids in one of the hardest hit neighborhoods.

Christine Lux's makeshift studio consists of some tables, a tent, and a giant blue tarp to protect the children’s art work and art supplies.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The cleanup effort is well underway after last week’s tornado in Dexter.

Steve Feinman, a trustee for Dexter Township, says volunteers have been incredibly helpful, and the township has hired a contractor to help with the cleanup.

Rather than wait to see if the state will send disaster relief funds, the township has gone ahead and allocated $200,000 from its own budget to help residents "remove trees and branches and shrub material that was damaged." Fineman says residents can bring those materials to the edge of the roadside for pickup. 

"You can’t wait for a state declaration to make sure your main thoroughfares are open, or people can get out of their houses and have their utilities back, so it’s a necessary thing," explains Fineman.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

DEXTER, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Department of Corrections work crews are helping cleanup efforts following last week's tornado that hit Washtenaw County.

The department says crews from its Special Alternative Incarceration Program in Chelsea, a prison boot camp, will be in the Dexter area at least through Wednesday.

The department says the crews will work longer if requested.

Also Tuesday, the Washtenaw County Building Inspection Division announced that it will give priority to permit applications that are submitted as a result of Thursday's tornado damage.

DEXTER, Mich. (AP) — The American Red Cross says hundreds of volunteers turned out to help people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado in Washtenaw County.

Spokeswoman Jenni Hawes says the village of Dexter is quickly getting cleaned up. The Red Cross moved its services Saturday to Creekside Intermediate School, which is more centrally located.

A tornado damaged more than 100 homes Thursday and destroyed at least 13.   The Red Cross no longer will offer an overnight shelter. No one had spent the last two nights at a school.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Update 2:21 p.m.

Cleanup work is underway in Dexter after Thursday’s tornado. Much of the repair work is being done by Southfield-based Statewide Disaster Restoration

Raymond Eddy, the company’s executive director, said his crews started arriving last night, and they’re been busy securing homes pummeled by the tornado.

“In the case of the home were working on right here, the side wall is blown out. We’re putting a temporary wall in,” said Eddy. “We’re basically in March.  It could snow tomorrow. You never know in the state of Michigan.”

There’s no snow, but rain is in the forecast this weekend. 

Eddy said they’re focusing on securing homes missing walls and roofs.

“These homes are these people’s castles,” said Eddy. “So without some of the disaster restoration contractors here to help them out, these people don’t have a beginning …you know…see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

More than a dozen homes in Dexter were destroyed in Thursday’s tornado. Repair work to more than a hundred others may take weeks or months to complete.

10:18 a.m.

Repair work is getting under way a day after a tornado damaged and demolished homes in Dexter.

The sound of power saws cutting through wood that just yesterday had been the walls of homes fills the air today in this Dexter subdivision.

Thursday’s tornado destroyed more than a dozen homes.   More than a hundred others suffered damage.

No death or serious injuries have been linked to the strong that ripped through Washtenaw County late in the afternoon.

There’s no estimated cost so far of the damaged caused by the unusual March twister.

People in Dexter are pulling together after Thursday’s tornado that destroyed or damaged more than a hundred homes and businesses

 “Help yourselves…there’s chips….” Supermarket manager Gary Winters told a woman who rode out Thursday's tornado in her Dexter home.    Winter spent his morning delivering water and snacks to emergency workers and construction contractors.   By midday, he was turning hot dogs on the barbeque grill as people from the tornado ravaged subdivision next door line up.

He says giving away free food and water is the least they could do for their neighbors..

 “Once you walk down there and see what actually happened last night," Winters pauses, "I don’t think…the pictures on the news really showed the amount of devastation down there.”  

 Everyone here says they are just grateful no one was seriously hurt or killed in the tornado.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Click on the photo to see more images.

People in Dexter gathered on the streets this morning to assess the damage from Thursday's tornado, and to help clean up the mess.

DTE trucks lined Central Street in Dexter as crews worked on power lines. Nearby Keri Romine, co-owner of Dexter Mill, says two structures were destroyed on her property.

On Wilson Street, at the Huron Farms subdivision, cleanup crews like the Statewide Disaster Restoration Mobile Command Center were on site. Across the street, two cars had been crushed by a collapsed roof.

Homeowner Ricke Stauffer says he estimates the damage to his home at $20,000 to $30,000. Shingles and siding were ripped from his house, windows were blown out and the deck in his backyard was torn off.

Employees of Busch’s grocery store in Dexter were in the neighborhood giving away bottles of water.

Matthew Altruda / YouTube

Staff at the Hudson Mills Metropark say their golf course near Dexter suffered significant damage from last night's F3 tornado that touched down around 5:30 p.m. From a Huron-Clinton Metroparks press release:

“According to neighbors, the funnel touched down on hole nine and stayed a while,” said Jerry Cyr, park operations manager for Hudson Mills Metropark. “We are grateful that no one was injured.”

The course is closed until further notice.

The main park is open, but without electricity or running water.

Although park personnel have not been able to completely assess the destruction, preliminary reports are that several areas of the course have suffered substantial damage.  Trees and household debris are scattered throughout the course. 

The park is the site where dramatic video footage of the tornado was captured by visitors.

Park staff say maple sugar programs scheduled for Saturday, and Sunday will be held if the power to the park is restored.

Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

Update 9:30 a.m.

The Associated Press reports more than 100 homes were severely damaged and 13 homes were destroyed in last night's F3 tornado in Dexter.

It appears people were warned in time.  Miraculously, there have been no reports of serious injuries or deaths.

From the Associated Press:

Initial estimates indicate the tornado that hit Dexter, northwest of Ann Arbor, Thursday evening was packing winds of around 135 mph, National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Freitag said Friday. He said it was on the ground for about a half hour and plowed a path about 10 miles long.

Dexter firefighter Dave Wisley told the Dexter Leader there are multiple gas leaks reported, but no fires have been reported.

The Red Cross reports officials are assessing affected neighborhoods this morning. 

Two shelters have been set up in the wake of last night's storms to provide health services, mental health services, food, water and basic needs.

  1. For those affected by the tornado in Dexter the shelter is at the Mill Creek Middle School in Dexter. The school is located at 7305 Dexter-Ann Arbor Rd.
  2. For those affected by flooding at the Park Place Apartments in Ann Arbor a second shelter in Ann Arbor has been set up. This shelter is at the Salvation Army at 100 Arbana Drive in Ann Arbor.

AnnArbor.com reports on power outages in Dexter:

An estimated 4,000 homes were without power this morning in Washtenaw County, most of them in the Dexter area.

Paul Ganz, regional manager for DTE Energy, said it was an "all-out call-out.''

"Dexter is a priority today,'' he said.

10:39 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra traveled to the Huron Farms neighborhood, where dozens of houses were damaged by the tornado: roofs torn off, siding blown into the street, whole walls missing.

Some houses were completely destroyed, reduced to nothing more than a heaping pile of wood.

Monica Waidley and her family were among the lucky ones. She says the tornado didn’t touch their house:

"We were in the basement watching things fly through the air out of our backdoor; peoples’ lives landing in our backyards, it was really scary."

The Waidleys were visiting their friend, Vicki Shieck, who also lives in the neighborhood. Shieck says she was "down in the basement, doing the tornado tuck" when the tornado hit. Her house was spared, with just a little bit of window and roof damage.

Shieck says the tornado "literally went kitty corner" between her and her neighbors' house, before it careened up the path and destroyed nearby houses.

Residents were seen leaving the neighborhood with suitcases, some carrying whatever valuables they could.

There have been no reports that anyone was injured or killed.

9:15 p.m.

A powerful tornado touched down in Dexter, Michigan at 5:33 p.m. Thursday evening.

The tornado demolished homes and damaged many others, uprooting trees and power lines.

It appears that no one was seriously injured or killed.

There were also reports of funnel clouds in Northfield Township and Saline, but trained spotters did not report any actual tornados.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark traveled to the scene and reported seeing homes with roofs and exterior walls stripped off. 

The Detroit Free Press reports that at least 50 homes are damaged:

...with roofs torn off, walls missing and interior rooms now exposed in Dexter. Debris litters the neighborhood. Insulation from houses float in large puddles in the streets and yard.

AnnArbor.com reports the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department says so far, no deaths or serious injuries have been reported:

Police and rescuers are searching door to door to confirm that, spokesman Derrick Jackson said in an e-mailed message.

A shelter has been set up at Mill Creek School and people who need shelter can go there, he said. People who have power were advised to stay in their homes.

Storms spin off tornadoes in southeast Michigan

More than 100 homes were severely damaged and 13 homes were destroyed by an F3 tornado in Dexter; a tornado touched down for 3-5 minutes in Monroe County; and a possible third tornado ripped a home from its foundation in Lapeer County.

But amazingly, so far, there have been no reported deaths or serious injuries from these storms.

The Associated Press spoke with Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Yee after he went door to door in Dexter:

Yee approached one destroyed home Thursday, and saw a hand sticking out of the rubble. He pulled out an elderly man, who was shaken but walked away.

“That’s the best part,” Yee said. “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.”

A shelter has been set up to help those affected by the storm in Dexter at the Mill Creek Middle School.

The Associated Press reports teams from the weather service will examine the damage today in Washtenaw, Monroe, and Lapeer counties.

Flint's emergency manager stripped of his power

Flint’s emergency manager, Michael Brown, will have to step down from his position after a judge prevented him from ‘taking any action’ on behalf of the city.

The judge's order was sought by Flint's unions. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody spoke with a union representative about the order:

"Because these proceedings were conducted illegally, including the appointment of Michael Brown as Emergency Manager, the court has quite properly enjoined Mr. Brown from acting on behalf of the City of Flint," says Lawrence Roehrig, Secretary-Treasurer of Michigan Council 25 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

State officials say Brown will abide by the order. A court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

More power for Bing? Detroit leaders working on counterproposal 

The state's consent agreement plan unveiled to Detroit's city leaders on Tuesday was loudly rejected by Mayor Bing and several city council members. Bing and council members are working on a counterproposal to the state.

The Detroit Free Press reports that proposal would give Bing more power than he has now:

Under the 26-page draft, obtained Thursday by the Free Press and first reported on freep.com , Bing proposes taking over many of the responsibilities of the state's proposed financial advisory board. He would assume the powers of an emergency manager, except that of being able to terminate union contracts.

Their time to work up a proposal is limited. Gov. Snyder says his deadline is March 26, and as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports "their position gets even weaker as their bank account approaches zero—a time bomb that could blow up before the end of April."

This video was taken by Matthew Altruda at 5:30pm on March 15.

Warning: this video contains graphic language