WEATHER

Tornado in Michigan damages more than 100 homes

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"It was eerie this morning," said Olexa, a handyman and commercial property manager. "There was a heavy fog. And it added to the horrific-ness of the event."

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A few blocks from Olexa's home, Ron Henderson stood on his front lawn, surveying the damage. The previous evening, he was watching television when the announcer said the storm might take aim at Dexter.

"And it did," he said with a chuckle. Henderson, his wife and son didn't have time to get to the basement of their home, and instead cowered by the bed as the tornado blew past.

About two dozen homes in the Huron Farms neighborhood "are pretty much unlivable," Sharon Carty said. "One house, the whole front of the house is gone. Folks whose houses were hit are pretty stunned. We don't get too many tornados around here."

Carty said she and her family heard the first weather siren around 5:15 p.m. and were in their basement when the tornado struck. Their house was untouched.

Perry Samson, an atmospheric science professor at the University of Michigan, said it's "relatively rare" to have such a powerful tornado in the state at this time of year. In January 2008, with temperatures in the 60s, tornadoes developed in southeastern Wisconsin.

Temperatures topped 70 on Thursday in Michigan.

"Extra moisture and extra heat certainly contributed to the instability that we had. ... We didn't see this coming," Samson said Friday from the Ann Arbor campus, 10 miles from Dexter. "We're still scratching our heads."

Jack Davidson said he was watching TV when he heard warning sirens go off near his home, sending him and his wife to the basement. When they emerged, they didn't see much damage at first and thought the storm had spared the area.

But one look across the street revealed a different reality: a flattened self-serve carwash was among the damaged structures. "It's bad," Davidson said.

"The pizza shop's bad. But the worst damage is to the carwash." Two blocks away, the twister didn't even touch down. "I guess we were just lucky we were in the right spot," Davidson said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Freitag said a weaker tornado was on the ground for three to five minutes in Monroe County's Ida Township. He estimated those winds at 80 to 90 mph.

A third possible tornado was reported in Lapeer County, near Columbiaville, where authorities found damage across a three-mile area. The storm ripped a two-story home from its foundation, damaged barns and vehicles and knocked down trees.

 

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