DEXTER (WWJ) - More than 100 homes were damaged in the aftermath of an early spring tornado Thursday night.
The twister was one of three reported in southeast Michigan — part of a slow-moving system packing large hail, heavy rain and high winds.
The Village of Dexter was hardest hit, where at least 13 homes were completely destroyed. Police say, however, there were no reports of serious injuries or fatalities.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Steven Freitag told the Associated Press the tornado that touched down in Dexter had winds estimated around 135 mph based on damage. He said it was on the ground for about a half hour and had a path about 10 miles long.
Mark Breckinridge, Emergency Management Director of Washtenaw County, said while limited to a small area, the storm did significant damage in the Dexter area.
“That entire area there, near Hudson Mills Park, outside of Dexter to the north there has a lot of debris and damage to homes and downed trees and power lines,” he said.
Nicole Stinebaugh watched as her gazebo was flattened to the ground.
“We were looking outside and we started to see stuff flying around and saw the tornado and trees falling down and we ran into the basement,” she said, adding that her neighbor’s house had significant damage.
“All their siding was taken off, there’s bark on the tree that’s taken off, their one of garage was leveled and the other garage is barely standing up.”
Fourteen-year-old Nick Gusfather was in the basement of his dad’s home in Dexter when the storm hit.
“At first I was taking pictures of the tornado, I thought it wouldn’t hit. And then I’m in the basement with my sister and glass completely shattered. The whole side of his house is ripped off, the hot tub, like, combusted and blew up, it’s just horrible,” he said.
Derek Jackson of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department said first responders have their work cut out for them.
“I’ve seen things like this in Kansas, but definitely not here in Washtenaw County in quite some time, I’ve seen nothing like this,” he said.
Hundreds of volunteers and emergency personnel are expected to work through the day assisting with cleanup. The Red Cross has also opened a temporary shelter for the displaced at Mill Creek Middle School.
Busch’s Market in Dexter plans to be open all day to help those in need. Marla Booth, marketing director of Busch’s, said the store is one of the few places that has power in the area. She said residents can bring items from their refrigerator, labeled with their name and phone number, to the store for temporary storage. The store is also providing residents with purified water.
There were also reports of several funnel clouds and some damage in Monroe County. No reports of injuries, however.
Mark Hammond from Monroe County Emergency Management said most of the damage was in Ida.
“There’s been some tree limbs down, we had significant hail so there’s been some broken windows and things like that but as far as major structural damage, only the home in Ida was the one that was most significantly damaged. There were some barns and agricultural buildings that suffered, you know, doors blown open and roofs knocked off, but as far as occupied structures go, Ida was the only one that was damaged,” he said.
Hammond said a tornado also touched down at Telegraph and Sigler area in Ash Township.
Lapeer County had its share of damage, too. The Sheriff’s Department said a damage pattern consistent with rotational force winds stretches for three-miles in the region. They said two barns sustained considerable damage and a two-story house was completely removed from its foundation. No injuries were reported.
Michelle Langton of Columbiaville, between Lapeer and Flint, said large hail damaged the family cars.
“My daughter’s front window is completely shattered. Then, there’s just huge dents on the roof and the hood of the car where hail hit. Both of the cars that were outside need to be repainted, bumped out, windows fixed,” she said.
DTE Energy said about 5,000 customers are without power Friday morning. DTE Spokesman Len Singer said the majority of those without power, about 4,000 customers, are in Washtenaw County, mostly in Dexter. About 1,000 customers are without power in Lapeer County.
Anyone wanting to help those affected by the tornadoes can donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by calling 734-971-5300 or online at www.wc-redcross.org.
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