Dexter Resident Don Colliau Sees Long Road Ahead Following Dexter Tornado
The former DAPCO employee spends his time looking for work while repairs continue on his home on Huron River Drive.
Editor's note: This article is part II of a two-part series chronicling the recovery in Dexter two months after a tornado ravaged the community.
When you ask resident Don Colliau about the tornado that touched down in Dexter two months ago, the one word you won't hear uttered from the 60-year-old resident is "victim."
Colliau's house was one of more than 100 homes caught in the line of a powerful F3 storm that touched down in the Dexter area on March 15.
Colliau remembers watching the storm from his garage while his wife Kathryn took the family's dogs to the basement as a precaution.
"You couldn't even see the house from the garage because it was raining so hard," he said. "Once the storm subsided and I saw the damage, all I could think was 'oh shit.'"
The storm's powerful winds brought down four trees, two of which crashed through the roof of the couple's house.
"It caused about $80,000 worth of damage," he said.
Rebuilding a home on Huron Street
The day after the storm, friends and neighbors converged on the couple's property, cleaning up brush and helping Colliau clear out damaged furniture.
"The phone was constantly ringing off the hook with people asking if we needed help. I definitely learned who my true friends were," he said. "At one point, we had so many people, we had to turn them away because we didn't have enough jobs for everyone."
Even officials from Dexter Township lended a hand despite the house's location in Webster Township.
"I was impressed with the help from Dexter Township," he said. "Two months after the storm, I still haven't heard from anyone on the Webster Township Board of Trustees."
Colliau said one volunteer in particular, made an impact on he and his wife.
"A young girl showed up with shovel in hand and asked how she could help. We didn't have anything for her to do, so I asked her to go and see where she could best assist someone else in need," he said. "I was really impressed with how perfect strangers were wanting to volunteer. That's how Dexter is: neighbors look out for neighbors."
Unlike some residents affected by the storm, who have had relatively little problems with their insurance companies, Colliau said he has been wrangling with insurance adjusters who debate whether or not certain parts of the property are covered from storm damage.
"At one point I was stressed because everything was up in the air. I didn't know how this was all going to turn out," Colliau explained.
After contacting the head of the insurance adjusters, he said repairs have slowly begun on the property.
"I made it perfectly clear that I'm not paying for any repairs. It would be one thing if I was doing something aesthetically," he said.
As of Tuesday, siding and roof work on the house is nearly complete, and this week the couple received a check to begin purchasing new furniture.
"It's a blessing in disguise, I guess. My house needed repairs, so it's better they got done now than not at all," he said.
Looking to the future
Colliau said he expects to be back in his house by the end of May. In the meantime, he spends his days surfing the Internet and newspaper classified ads looking for work while staying with his daughter on Island Lake Road.
"I just read an article about how tough it is to get a job for people 50 and over who have been laid off; that's very true," he said. "Luckily my wife still works, so we'll live, just not as good as I'm used to."
He said he has about five more weeks of unemployment and hopes that he doesn't have to move away from the community in order to find work.
"I don't want to have to travel," he said. "I've been spoiled in that I wasn't driving far to work. With gas prices today, I don't know how some of these people who work in one county and live another ever get ahead, especially if the wear and tear is forcing them to get a new car every two or three years."
Surveying the damage to his house Tuesday morning, Colliau reflected on the outpouring of support from friends and neighbors that he and his wife have received during the last two months.
"It's been nice seeing so many people working together," he said. "I think Dexter is even stronger now. It's like I tell my friends: 'This tornado was a bad situation with a happy ending.'"
To read Patch's complete and ongoing coverage of the Dexter tornado, click here.