A late afternoon tornado ripped through Washtenaw County in southeastern lower Michigan on Thursday, creating a wide swath of destruction. The tornado did the most damage to the community of Dexter which is located northwest of Ann Arbor. Wooden remnants of homes and businesses were spread throughout yards and streets in the worst hit areas.
The destruction in Dexter was described by many as being surreal. Work crews from several area police and fire departments rushed to the town to assist. Emergency crews were at large intersections directing rush hour traffic as the electricity was out due to numerous trees, power lines and poles being knocked down by the slow moving twister. Police closed most roads to traffic due to safety concerns.
The subdivision of Huron Farms in Dexter was very hard hit. There, dozens of homes received damage with many being ripped apart – with walls, roofs and windows blown out. Although many of these homes were still standing, the interior stairs were visible from the street which was covered with debris. The National Weather Service called the tornado “significant”. The tornado was on the ground for about thirty minutes and it cut a path of destruction of about ten miles.
There were also reports of tornado touchdowns in nearby Monroe County where trees and power lines were down. Lapeer County also had severe weather with heavy rains, 2-inch hail and winds recorded at 70 miles per hour. Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti issued an all-campus warning to students to take cover as a tornado warning was put into effect. Students received the warnings via email and text messages. At the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, patients were moved away from windows into hallways.
The American Red Cross set up a shelter near Dexter yesterday evening for affected residents. Another shelter later opened in Ann Arbor where significant flooding forced residents of a large apartment complex to evacuate.
The slow moving storm was part of a larger system which packed hail, torrential rainfall and high gusting winds. The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s office said that over 100 homes in Dexter and the surrounding area were damaged and that more than a dozen were completely destroyed. People whose homes were struck by the tornado were stunned as they are not used to many tornadoes hitting their area. No reports of serious injuries or deaths were reported, probably due to the fact that tornado warnings were issued and that the storm struck during the daylight hours.