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Posted on Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

Dexter cleanup effort transforming tornado-wrecked neighborhoods

By Lisa Carolin


More than 100 houses were damaged during Thursday's tornado that hit Dexter's Huron Farms neighborhood. Cleanup efforts continued Saturday.

Lisa Carolin | For

Read comprehensive coverage here.

Two days after the tornado hit the Dexter area, there still are several major areas facing major cleanup challenges from the devastation. Along Dexter-Pinckney Road across from the Hudson Mills Golf Course and in and around the Carriage Hills neighborhood, huge trees litter yards and roadways. Power lines are down, and power is not expected to be restored until early next week.


Hundreds of trees as well as power lines were downed by Thursday's tornado as it made its way along Dexter-Pinckney Road by the Carriage Hills neighborhood.

Lisa Carolin | For

"The tree-lined canopy is gone, and it's a very different-looking place," said Doug Armstrong, a Dexter firefighter and assistant fire chief for Scio Township.

"There aren't as many houses damaged in the Carriage Hills area compared to Huron Farms where there are upward of 80 houses damaged."

Armstrong, like so many other rescue workers and residents, marvels at the fact that there were no injuries during Thursday's tornado, which had winds up to 130 to 140 mph.

"People had a 15-minute warning and heeded it; It happened around 5 p.m. and many houses were not fully occupied, and we were just lucky," said Armstrong.

In the Huron Farms subdivision on Dexter-Ann Arbor Road, Nancy Malone from Canton organized a cleanup effort Saturday through her group Hands of Light in Action.

"I started Hands of Light in Action after 9/11, and we've been to many natural disasters including Haiti and Katrina," said Malone. "This is the first disaster I've been to where they were all lucky enough to have homeowner's insurance. The restoration crews are taking care of a lot of the cleanup."


Toys and bikes were gathered up as a part of the cleanup effort Saturday in the Huron Farms neighborhood.

Lisa Carolin | For

More than 50 people joined Malone to help clean up Huron Farms' common areas. Volunteers like Jerry Mastey from Ann Arbor brought donations, including cases of bottled water.

Blue tarps cover various sections of many houses in Huron Farms, depending on the extent and location of the damage. Hackney Hardware employee Ben Howell says the tarps have been the biggest-selling item since the tornado hit.

"We're also getting a lot of requests for sharpening chainsaws," he said.

The sound of chainsaws is ubiquitous in Huron Farms. Dexter Area Fire Chief Loren Yates is amazed at how quickly progress is being made in the cleanup effort.

"It's remarkable how people are working together," said Yates. "The transformation from yesterday to today is incredible."

At the LaFontaine Chevrolet Parking lot on Dexter-Ann Arbor Road just east of Huron Farms, members of the Great Lakes BBQ Association are handing out breakfast, lunch and dinner.

"We provided 400 meals yesterday," said Jason Winne from Ferndale.

"People without power need food, and the Salvation Army is delivering our meals in boxes," said his wife Keri Winne. "We have a ton of food."

Armstrong says that they can't distribute the food and water donations fast enough.

"Everyone wants to help," he said. "It's a testament to living in a small community."


Hundreds of trees as well as power lines were downed by Thursday's tornado as it made its way along Dexter-Pinckney Road by the Carriage Hills neighborhood.

Lisa Carolin | For

If you were impacted by the storm and are in need of services, please contact the Red Cross at 734-971-5300.

Based on the needs of the community, the Red Cross is moving its services to the Creekside Intermediate School to offer, water, snacks, health services and service information. Creekside, 2615 Baker Road, will open at 7 a.m. on Sunday. It will not be used as a shelter. The shelter at Middle Creek Middle School, where these services were offered before will close at 6 p.m. Saturday.


John Carter

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

Mike, the reason there is no looting is because the neighborhood has been secured. It takes a resident some 20 minutes to get to their home after passing through security. This is much easier to accomplish in a single neighborhood with only a couple of entrances. No comparison to a city wiped out by a hurricane.

Soft Paw

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

Looks like a good early spring stimulus for the Dexter building and construction business.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

This is America at it's finest as local government and FREE MARKET work together brilliantly. First responders were on the scene a few minutes after the tornado and work crews began arriving in less then an hour. Victims of severe damage took what they could carry and moved to hotels. Front loaders appeared and began clearing the streets as the water receded. That night,people still in their homes heard saws and hammers pounding as crews worked until early morning under generator-powered construction light towers. The next morning, the Village had a row of dumpsters delivered to the hardest hit areas. The real story here is not the tornado - it's this small community's response to neighbors in need of help and the first responders, village council/staff, local businesses, volunteers, insurance companies and restoration construction companies who responded.

Chancey's mom

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

This all reminds me of the end scene in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas": the whole community in smiles and helping one another. You can't go through that neighborhood without ending up just feeling good about each other. I thought walking through it all (to help with clean up) would be depressing, but the people are more present than the destruction.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

Not sure about the UM students, but my son, a 2011 Dexter HS grad, came home from CMU Friday afternoon to help with the cleanup. The posts are correct ... EVERYONE, young and old, has pulled together to show an amazing sense of pride in this community. We are all in this together and our little town will never be the same. Forever changed .... never again the same .... but out of tragedy comes a renewed sense of spirit, comraderie and fellowship. It makes me proud to be a part of this community.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

I don't know the specifics of who is helping from other communities --but I know that a large number of Dexter teens have been working very hard in the clean-up effort. Our son, a Dexter High School senior is on day 3 of volunteering. I am so proud of these young people. The Dexter community is just amazing!


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

How wonderful that so many local groups donated their time & energy to help with the cleanup. The people of Dexter are great, they behave as true neighbors should. But where are all those strong & manly football & basketball players from the U of M? Too busy studying? Gone on spring break to Cancun? Perhaps I missed news of their volunteerism!!!!!


Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 11:56 p.m.

It is so impressive how the Dexter community pulled together to support the impacted families. And kudos to the families, they did everything right. They all had insurance. They heeded the warnings. Everyone ended up safe. Just wow. Sure, there's a lot still to get through. But, wow. Now imagine if this had happened in New Orleans. The school auditorium would have been filled with dependent families. There would have been looting. There would have been armed robberies and rapes. And, the media would blame Bush. There would be lawsuits against every single helping agency or partner. The founders of this country were right. An informed and prosperous citizenry is better than a government that pretends to be your savior.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

I second Darwinia's thoughtful response. The 2 populations and situations are very different. Most Dexter residents aren't starting out impoverished and without transportation, as in the New Orleans hurricane. If they were, they wouldn't be living in middle- to upper-class homes in predominately white neighborhoods where folks can afford house insurance and cars. Furthermore, as Darwinia notes, the police, fire department, and emergency shelters are all government subsidized.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

Dexter was hit by a huge tornado which was extremely rare for both its size and the time of year. Advanced warning from the National Weather Service, as well as an amazing response by the Emergency Services of numerous communities helped to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for. There will be lasting effects for the area for a very long time. Its a pretty huge assumption that everyone will be taking care of themselves rather than needing the government to step in. The laundromat is gone. There is also the impact on businesses like the Huron Creek gas station as the road remains closed. They likely couldn't even open for the neighboring residents without power. Not every house damaged or destroyed was in a subdivision, or even had a basement. Not everyone has a car anymore to get to the shelter at the Middle School or the funds available to stay at a hotel. Not everyone who suffered damage is close to town. Hopefully the insurance companies will process claims quickly. Hopefully no fly by night contractors will take advantage of people. Fortunately, both of those industries are regulated by the government. The Emergency responders weren't working for free when they responded Thursday night. They also didn't think twice about driving in the middle of the storm or running in and out of crumbling houses to locate everyone. The police still aren't working for free as they stand directing traffic and making sure only residents get beyond road closures. DTE has also had to replace numerous poles to help get the power back on. All of this is why any disaster declaration from the government is so important. It helps make sure that any state or federal funds help the village and everyone in it get back on their feet.

Amy Lesemann

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:38 a.m.

I agree with the other reply...For pete's sake, Mike! You have an upper class, educated, employed group of people with CARS, AND BASEMENTS. And this was a tornado...not an enormous hurricane. Get your facts straight, please, before you disrespect an enormous, broke, underprivileged population, ok? Sheesh.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 12:33 a.m.

There is absolutely no comparison to New Orleans. Oranges and apples. An entire city was destroyed along with no one able to volunteer in the ratios of what we see locally.


Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 11 p.m.

I wouldn't say transformation just yet. There is a lot of work to be done. I would say it's a process toward transformation. I hope that traumatized families are getting the help they need. PTSD may eventually need to be addressed. Having your home blown to bits is traumatic.


Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

Absolutely! There were a lot of shell shocked families. I think what has made it a little easier, at least for the rest of us, is that no one was hurt. But even those that did not lose their homes are pretty stressed about what could have happened.

John B.

Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

The latest estimate of the number of damaged buildings is 150, not 100. (It was 105 previously). Also, a whole lot of progress is being made (quickly) in cleaning things up, it seems. Great job, all that have helped!