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Posted on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

Violent storm hits area: 'We're going to start calling Dexter the new Kansas'

By Lisa Allmendinger

Amy Lesser said the violent storm Thursday evening that toppled a large walnut tree in the front yard of her Island Lake Road home in Dexter Township appeared so quickly, she doesn't really remember much about it.

Across the street, on another part of the family farm, the wind picked up a shed, destroyed it and littered the immediate area with metal debris. The storm also flipped two wagons, but there was no damage to the Lesser family's 1832 farm house that Amy said was built by the second settler in Dexter.

"It hit so fast, I don't remember much, but I know I was screaming," she said, adding she and her children raced down the stairs to the basement to safety. "We'd practiced what to do."

Still shaken from the experience an hour later, she said the house was surrounded by swirling wind and gray skies, "tornado-y stuff."

Lesser said the storm lasted maybe 3 seconds, but trees on Island Lake Road and in the nearby area on McKinley and Waterloo roads were twisted around each other. Neighbors said the way the trees were gnarled and felled, they were sure it was another tornado.

"We're going to start calling Dexter the new Kansas," Lesser said.


Albert Lesser, 14, walks past a barn that was blown over during a strong storm that damaged his family's farm in Dexter on Thursday. Lesser also lost a tractor he had been rebuilding.

Melanie Maxwell I

A March 15 EF-3 tornado that struck the Dexter area caused more than $9 million in damages.

Dale Lesser said another tornado in 1988 went over the house and he felt that same sensation in his ears Thursday. "Look at the woods in the back, it sheared the trees right off," he said.

The storm also cut through the family's fruit orchards, Carl Lesser said. Marc Breckenridge, director of emergency services in Washtenaw County, told Thursday evening that the storm was not a tornado, but may have been some isolated wind damage. Reports indicted that trees fell throughout the areas northwest of Dexter, including some that fell on barns and outbuildings.

Lesser said she saw the storm approaching and raced home after picking up her 9-year-old daughter, Amanda, from swimming. "I never go that fast," she said. "I just knew I needed to get home."

The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning around 4:20 p.m. for much of Washtenaw County, saying winds up to 60 mph were possible.

Amy Lesser and husband, Tom, are the fifth generation of the Lesser family to live in the home.

"The house is OK. We're OK. The barns are OK, my birthday's tomorrow, and this is the best present I could have," she said of the home where she's lived for the last 16 years.

And, although they have no power, Amy Lesser said that was OK, too. "We have candles. We have water, it's just a tree out front and everyone's fine."

A few miles away, Jerry Gillikin was cleaning up debris from two trees that almost landed on him as he headed home.

He said he was on at the BP station on Fletcher Road and as he got closer to his home on McKinley Road, it was raining so hard he couldn't see as he got close to his driveway.

"It was sheets of water and I couldn't see. I knew that trees could be down, and in my rearview mirror a tree fell just behind me and then another one fell in front of me," he said, recalling the near-misses he experienced with the fast-moving storm.

After 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dexter Area Fire Department fanned out into three different areas in the township and Washtenaw County Road Commission crews arrived in the area with chainsaws to open roads that had large trees across them.

View Severe Weather 2012 in a larger map

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at


John Hritz

Sat, Jun 23, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

I'm sure one of our weather experts will weigh in, but the damage and lack of rain looks like a dry microburst which is a powerful down draft created in thunder storms. There's rain, but it evaporates before hitting the ground. Dexter has had a rough summer. The folks I've talked to about the tornado have shown remarkable resilience.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

I live about 1 mile from the Lessers and saw the damage not only about the house and barns but also the back woods. This was without a doubt a Toranado that most likely did not touch the ground. It cleared a path in the woods about 30 wide ant looked like a bulldozer just went through. I had the same thing happen on my farm a few years ago. lost over 14 hugh trees abou the same size. As for my experience, I lived in Oklahoma for over 20 years so have seent e aftermath of what they look like. As for the Emergency Manager stating this was not a toranado, Have learned over the years that if the Weather forcasters do not announce one , then it isn't one. Fortunately, nooone injured and all annimales OK. This is what is really important in something like this.


Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 2:05 a.m.

trust me, it was a tornado/ may not have shown up as one...but, I can assure you it was.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

It was definitly not a Tornado. Tornados touch the ground. Funnel Clouds are what don't touch the ground. And it was neither. Michigan gets more damage from Severe Thunderstorms than it does Tornadoes. Aside from Dexter's that it. That was a rare occurance.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

Good thing the Lesser's have some strong young bucks to help get things fixed up...lucky folks there!!


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Great Job Road Commission for once again stepping in and helping out with a huge clean up!


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

If you saw the radar right before it hit, it was a very small, but intense storm. Near Island Lake/Wylie Rd. we had wind and rain, and a couple bolts of lightning, and then it was over, as quickly as it began. It formed very quickly and was very fast moving. I'm glad to know that, once again, God was looking out for us and no one was injured. And .... we were treated to a gorgeous, full double rainbow later in the evening that lasted almost an hour!!


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

This storm almost completely missed the Ann Arbor city limits. It was a fast moving storm cell that had a strong microburst. Unforntunately, it swiped Dexter. The storm also weakened, ironically as it moved away. (I had nothing more than a sprinkle in my neighborhood.)

Ed Kimball

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

It's a shame that Dexter got hit so hard (again!) while we in Ann Arbor, who could use some rain, got almost none. I guess I should be thankful that we didn't get the heavy winds, either.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

While I feel horrible for the Lesser family, I do want to add that the photojournalism accompanying this article is top notch. Kudos to Melanie Maxwell for enhancing the article with your pictures. In general, I think the photo staff has always offered up compelling photos and they don't always get the credit they deserve.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

I'm in agreement, this is the modern way of getting the news out, doesn't need to be perfection, don't care about grammar, proper journalism, as it's always a work in progress. This is the 21st century, lightning fast reporting means the days of snooty grammar/spelling police are long gone. I am 100% in favor of video and photos with a story...they truly are worth a thousand words!! Good job on this one!!!

Rork Kuick

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

When the March 15 tornado hit our neighborhood, the local farmers were some of the biggest heroes. In case someone hadn't heard. Showing up may be 90% of being a hero for average people like me, but these folks showed up with chainsaws, backhoes, and know-how.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

I wouldn't do that to Kansas....


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 11:17 a.m.

I'm glad no one was hurt and it sucks that Dexter has taken two hits in such a short amount of time. I must have slept through it or nothing happened in Ypsi. I was very confused when I heard about how bad the storm was.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 9:28 a.m.

I'm sorry Dexter got the brunt of it. I was hoping, based on the almost non-entity of a storm that hit Ann Arbor, that the reports of a violent storm were exaggerated. Unfortunately it sounds like our neighbors got hit with the worst of it... again. :(

JuliAnne Miller

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 3:41 a.m.

Is there any pictures from McKinley at Waterloo? My Mom said she lost all of our huge pine trees, and that it looked like there was twisted trees in the woods at the back of our field. Really stinks being on the other side of the state, with no way to know how bad the damage is to our farm.

Kai Petainen

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 2:56 a.m.

A few photos from tonight. A cloud over the arboretum Double rainbow looking towards Ypsi along Huron River Same rainbow at sunset CS Mott and sunset


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

The Ypsilanti rainbow did have a ending and a beginning. We had to storm our neighbors house for their pot of gold. Sadly the leprechaun got a way...again.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

Very cool photos--thanks for the links!

Kai Petainen

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 3:50 a.m.

thank you


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 3:38 a.m.

Beautiful photos of the rainbow tonight!

Jeff Renner

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 2:45 a.m.

Love the photo of Dale and David Lesser pulling the trailer. Glad everyone is OK. I occasionally get honey from the Lessers. Here in Scio Twp. midway between Dexter and A2 we had hardly any weather at all - a few spatters of rain is all.

Ann English

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

In the northeast corner of Scio Township, we got more rain than you did. I had just pulled into the garage when a downpour started, with strong winds blowing from the west. It didn't last long.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

Seems they would have used the tractor in the background to move the gravity box wagon.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 2:31 a.m.

I was driving home at 4:20 and listening to the radio weather warnings -- all the while thinking I should maybe pull over by a treeless area? I didn't, but saw other, smarter people who did just that. The weather did get a bit hairy in the Dexter area.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

Ypsilanti and the surrounding area needs the rain. Wow. What a disappointment. Good luck Dexter. At least this time it was the lesser of two. O but boy did we get a good show a double rainbow. What colors.

Honest Abe

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 2:37 a.m.

Crazy weather. I did not see ANY rain in Ypsilanti today.

Paula Gardner

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 1:57 a.m.

Hardly a slow news day when fire departments get called out to Dexter for a possible tornado again! Just happy that no one's reported injuries, even though there was some obvious destruction. If you missed the story about the overall situation, check out the "related story" at the top of this one: Officials investigate heavy wind damage near Dexter.

Zach Jerger

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 1:34 a.m.

Must have been a really slow news day in Ann Arbor...

andy kelly

Sat, Jun 23, 2012 : 10:53 a.m.

Well Craig, if you are not sure about what is more over the top when I suggested a ridiculous situation as a point of illustration you may wish to join Zach when he revisits grade school. Obviously something was lost in translation.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 12:04 p.m.

I'm not sure whats more over the top. Zach's original comment or Andy's "declaration of war' and the notion that a splinter in anybody's finger would ever be newsworthy. hyperbole battling hyperbole.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

andy...much like kinky friedman's observation that when texans move to oklahoma the i.q. level of both places is raised.

andy kelly

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 10:41 a.m.

Zach - I take it that tons of thought went into your heartless comment posed to stir bubbling anger for the doltish armchair criticism commonly found here. The Lesser's are very good people, with an extraordinary heart, especially in today's day and age. I would consider it newsworthy if Ann reported that one of the Lesser's got a splinter. To offend them publicly with your vacuous comment, and in light of what they just experienced, it is on par with a declaration of war. A so-called "slow" news day is why many people live in this area. Want a packed news day - move somewhere else. If nothing else, I know the intellectual and sensitive Washtenaw gene pool would benefit from your move.


Fri, Jun 22, 2012 : 10:27 a.m.

a pretty silly and heartless post zach.