Warning System, Emergency Responders Prevented Calamity in Dexter
Dexter, MI, government and law enforcement leaders credited the community's alert residents for responding quickly to sirens and preventing fatalities or serious injuries.
Southeast Michigan government officials and law enforcement leaders gathered in Dexter Friday afternoon to speak about the community's tornado damage and the work to repair there.
Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton, State Rep. Mark Ouimet (R-Scio Township) and Dexter Village President Shawn Keough provided the update at a press conference held at Mill Creek Middle School. An American Red Cross shelter has been set up in the school, providing food and respite for residents who have been helping with the clean-up process. According to Red Cross officials, most residents have made do near their homes, staying in cars or with friends.
No fatalities or serious injuries have yet to be reported.
"We think that's a testament to the emergency warning system, a testament to public education as to how you respond, and a testament to the Dexter residents," Sheriff Clayton said.
Officials said that the tornado sirens were activated at approximately 5:09 p.m. Thursday, indicating to residents that the tornado was heading toward Dexter. At 5:33 p.m., the tornado touched down. That gave the residents of Dexter approximately 26 minutes to seek cover.
"We are very thankful there was no loss of life or significant injury," Keough said. "I feel blessed to be able to say that instead of giving statistics to suggest otherwise. We appreciate everyone's prayers for the community. Everyone has come together really well."
An unusual warmth surging across the eastern two-thirds of the nation this March is reportedly responsible for the rare tornadoes.
Assessing the Damage
Local officials are in the damage assessment stage. Approximately 100 homes were significantly damaged. The worst hit areas, according to the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, were the Carriage Hills and Huron Farms neighborhoods of Dexter.
The Road Commission is working to clear the roads. Dexter-Pinckney Road is closed between Island Lake and North Territorial (there is no estimated time for reopening). There are many downed trees and power lines.
DTE Energy is hoping to get power fully restored sometime Friday night.
President Shawn Keough said the village water treatment and wastewater treatment systems are working properly and there are no issues with water, even though parts of the system were on back-up power at times.
Many streets are being blocked to general traffic. Because of this, work crews headed to area homes must have work orders, specific information about the house they are working on, or the name of the homeowner, if they want to be granted access to neighborhoods.
"At a time like this, it is trying for people who have lost, if not something, almost everything," Rep. Ouimet said at the conference. "The spirit of the people in Dexter has been remarkable, how one neighbor is out helping another neighbor."
Sheriff Clayton credited the prompt response of local responders.
"Within moments after the touchdown, area fire departments and emergency services, Huron Valley Ambulance, Sheriff's Office and other local law enforcement agencies responded to the scene and began to coordinate immediate rescue activities and ensuring that none of the Dexter residents or anyone else visiting the community were trapped, harmed or significantly injured," he said.
Here's How to Help
There's been an outpouring of donations and help in the wake of the tornado. But law enforcement officials say that now is not the time to come to Dexter to volunteer.
"For those individuals who wish to come to the area, we encourage you to stay out," Sheriff Clayton said. "There is a time for volunteers to come in and provide assistance, but now is not that time."
The American Red Cross is recommending donations to the United Way. Washtenaw County residents can donate by calling 2-1-1.
To donate to the American Red Cross, call 734-971-3500.
The Chelsea State Bank has also created a Dexter Relief Fund, which you can now donate to online via PayPal.