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Posted on Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

Volunteers back in Dexter to continue tornado cleanup efforts

By Lisa Carolin

Rick and Barb Fike of Dexter Township took their privacy for granted back when their house was surrounded by hundreds of trees. That all changed on March 15, when a tornado made its way down Dexter-Pinckney Road where the Fikes live. They lost more than a hundred trees.

"People didn't know we lived in here before," said Rick Fike, who says that among the losses were 55 mature spruce trees.

"I was in the laundry room closet when the tornado hit, and all I could hear was the sound of a freight train," said Barb Fike.

The Fikes' house received no damage, but it's now in plain view and has been visited daily by dozens of volunteers. Today is no exception as neighbors, U-M students, and members of Hands of Light in Action descended on the property.

"It's our way of giving back," said Dailyn Foster, a U-M sophomore and member of Merit, a community service group at the University of Michigan.

"A few of our members are from Dexter, and we wanted to do something for them," said Emphani Aldridge, also a U-M sophomore and member of Merit. "I've never seen a tree turned on its side like this with the roots showing."

Amid the burning wood, volunteer Doug Smith of Ann Arbor was wielding his chainsaw.

"I was here last Saturday and can see a big difference in the number of trees that have been cleaned up in a week," said Smith. "Helping these people clean up this mess gives me something to do."

Neighbor Dennis Linder had emotional ties to the lost trees.

"I lost more than a hundred trees, many of which I planted," he said. "I'm sad," he added as he set a pile of tree debris on fire.

Linder and the FIkes were touched by the huge number of volunteers that have come out to help since the tornado struck. This afternoon volunteers are coming from St. Mary's Catholic Church in Pinckney, the U-M rowing club, the Dexter High School lacrosse team, and the Boy Scouts.

"What an amazing community this is," said Rick Fike. "We wouldn't have lived long enough to do this ourselves, in part, because the cleanup would have killed us."

Meanwhile, in the Village of Dexter today, T-shirts benefiting the Dexter Area Fire Department went on sale and sold out in just a few hours. 500 shirts were printed with the words "Dear Tornado, Don't Mess with the Dreadnaughts. -Dexter." Those are the same words that appear on the billboard on Dexter-Ann Arbor Road billboard located on the south side of the road when entering the village from the east.

"I had a feeling the shirts would go quickly," said Tracy Klein-Lambert, owner of Fancy Stitch, who printed the shirts with help from Boullion Sales, which sponsored the billboard.

The shirts sell for a minimum $10 donation, and Klein-Lambert promises that more are being printed.


Brendan Fike

Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

Thank you for the article covering the clean-up at my parent's house. I have truly been amazed at the number of people in the community that just stopped whatever they had in their schedule to help someone in need. Last weekend, driving down Dexter-Pinckney Rd taking brush to the golf course, I was amazed at how much the area I grew up in changed. I was more impressed at the hundreds of volunteers scattered across the area doing whatever they could to help out. I would like to make one important correction to your article. You mention that my parents, Rick and Barb Fike, as well as Mr. Linder live in Dexter Township. Though very close to the border, they actually live in Webster township. It's when horrific things like the Dexter Tornado happen that you find out who people really are. These past few weeks, we have learned how generous and wonderful hundreds of people are from the Dexter, Ann Arbor, Chelsea, and areas all over can be. I would like to thank the members of Dexter Township for their overwhelming support. When the board at Webster Township refused to reach out to my parents and the fifteen or so homes in their township that were effected by the tornado, Pat Kelly (the supervisor for Dexter Township) stepped up and said that not a single home in the area goes without the help they need. Her township was responsible for organizing most of the volunteer efforts and provided both transportation and supervision for them. I was extremely impressed with the generosity Pat and her staff demonstrated. Pat, herself, even showed up at my parents' house to check in and make sure everything was being taken care of and that everything they needed was being done. The folks at Webster Township didn't show up until about a week and a half after the tornado. Thank you to all of the volunteers and Dexter Township to help bring my parents' house back to whatever "normal" now is. Thank you especially to Pat who didn't turn people away. Brendan Fike

Ann English

Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 11:58 p.m.

Looks like both Google maps showed the Fikes' property, with the one on top shown from further up in the air. The piles of severed branches ready to be burned look like a familiar sight where I am, but the piles in Dexter get burned right away instead of sitting for weeks, inviting deer to come and eat from them. Just as long as the ground gets plenty of water so that the fires don't grow out of control or grow at all overnight.


Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 10:40 p.m.

My son and I were out last weekend with our power-dump trailer, and the place was crawling with people. So today, after I wrapped up a few obligations in town, I hitched up set out for Dexter again. Ghost town. At 2:00 in the afternoon! I found one guy with a chainsaw working beside a couple of front-loaders, but he said no one there was allowed to use the loaders. I cruised on along Horseshoe Bend, and finally found two little boys, maybe 7, 8 years old max, piling up some branches. I stopped just to pump them up. They did a surprisingly good job of helping me to load 7 cubic yards of branches, which I dumped at Hudson Mills. So I guess my trip to Dexter was a "success," since I gave two little kids a feel-good moment. But I wish there was some reliable information/organization out there. It's not like this was some sort of major disaster on the order of a Missouri/Kansas type of thing, that completely overwhelms the system. Down there, they do something as small as this storm standing on their heads! And if some guy shows up with a dump trailer, it's loaded in a heartbeat! Oh, well.


Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

We do thank you for your efforts in helping clean our community up, however, you "wish there was some reliable information/organization out there"????? Have you not read the articles in prior to today? I believe the source for reliable info has been printed all over these pages for the last 2 1/2 weeks! The Dexter Township hall and Hands of Light In Action have been organizing everything and Hands of Light have been sending constant e mail and Facebook updates throughout the week, complete with when and where to meet, what needs done at each home, each homes address and homeowners name, and list of crew leader for each job and their phone number. Perhaps Dexter appeared to be a ghost town because everyone volunteering were deep off the main roads working in back on the houses where the property were really hit the worst and not visible from the road (such as the Fikes home listed in this article). Again thank you VERY much for helping but there is an incredibly well organized group out there working on everything that is not very difficult to find and join up with if you look in the right place and use some resourcefulness.