Then seventh graders, two editors remember how a 5:15 greenish sky distruped the calm, forever impacting their lives
by Caden Koenig and Nick LeBlanc
Remembering back, as a seventh grader all the days seem like a blur. As a seventh grader the experiences of the whole year feel like one memory. This is with the exception of March 15th and the few days that followed it.
The day started as an average Michigan day: 70 degrees and sunny… in March. All morning, the weather was celebrated with T-shirts and shorts. It was a fantastic surprise considering the prior days were 40 degrees at the most.
Now, like I said, most of my memories blur as just being an average day and so was the beginning of this day. In fact, I even remember walking home with friends.
It was about 3:30 pm and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The day slowly progressed with my friends, and I was likely playing basketball or football outside.
Around 4:30 the clouds quickly started to roll in and the sky got darker and darker. My parents had ordered Jets pizza for dinner.
We planned to eat on our patio in our backyard. By the time my dad went to get the pizza, 10 minutes later, the Severe Weather Warning Alert blared through the television. Immediately following, the tornado siren from the village started echoing.
At about 5:15, the sky was a green tint, the thunder was loud, the lightning lit up the sky with every strike, and my dad and I were eating Jet’s on the porch. However, this did not last long due to a mix of the uncomfortably high wind speeds, and my mom freaking out about us being outside. So, we rushed to the basement with our candles, flash lights, and pizza due to the power outage.
By 6:00, it was over. The shock set in almost instantly. The roads were flooded. Trees were uprooted. Clothes, rugs, and furniture lay throughout the neighborhood. My family and I sat on our porch for hours unsure what to do.
I had always looked up to my parents when I didn’t know what to do, but at this moment it seemed like nobody knew how to act. It seemed surreal, not only that night but the days that followed as well.
Calm. The sky, the temperature, the people. All was calm. The birds chirped welcomingly till it became a normality to the ear. The pleasantly curious warm air tiptoed through the trees and reached as the breeze caressed human skin. Kids walked and played as the seductive nature lured kids to embrace the day.
I took my time on the walk home that day. Fully indulging in the surprising beauty of the day. Even the sight of my colleague, Caden Koenig, leaking blood from his nasal cavity wasn’t enough to take away from the grace of the day. Besides the spontaneous nose bleed and the warm winter day (yes, March 15th is still considered winter), the day was normal.
After my arrival home, things settled down as I waited for my father to return home to take me to baseball practice. That’s when the peace of the day began to change. Seemingly out of nowhere, an overcast of distasteful clouds took to the sky. The welcomingly chirp of the birds was halted. Kids went back inside as a brigade of dark clouds approached from the distance.
Being a curious kid, I was constantly checking the sky behind my deck. As per usual, when a storm was in sight, I made constant, annoying suggestions claiming there was a tornado. As cliché as it sounds, I was actually right for once.
The wall of wind was in the distance, but since I knew the approximate travel of the storm, I felt the urgency to tell my brother and father. While my brother and I decided the best idea was to run into the basement, my father thought the best idea was to inspect the tornado from up close. After realizing that the cone of wind was indeed a tornado and in our neighborhood, he finally came to the conclusion that maybe he should be in the basement.
We looked out the windows in the basement and all we saw was the gray of the storm. We heard the wind rushing against the house and the hail bombarding the siding. Eventually a tree fell and blocked our view of everything, even the ominous gray color.
The sun came out. It seemed calm again, but after the shock dissipated, it was clear that nothing was calm. My friends and I decided to walk the neighborhood. Police, people, and the remnants of destroyed houses were a common sight around evry block.
The calm scene that was set earlier was gone. The new scene had rolled in: chaos.
Five years after the Dexter Tornado, two students, a teacher, and an administrator reflect on the how the day has changed their lives
By Megan Sarns and Julia Bell
Having formerly lived in Florida, sophomore Kara Young and her family are used to ominous weather conditions.
“We had hurricane after hurricane near our house,” she said.
So, when a storm started rolling into Dexter on March 15, she didn’t think much of it. The family was actually getting ready to go to church for weekly “Thursday night dinners.”
Shortly after the tornado struck Dexter, local businesses stepped up as the community tried to recover from the devastation
By Truman Stovall
In the aftermath of the tornado five years ago, businesses in Dexter and surrounding cities assisted in the relief effort. When affected families were in need, they took it upon themselves to generate money, food, and shelter.
A minute’s walk away from the path of destruction through the Huron Farms subdivision stands the local Busch’s Fresh Food Market. The Dexter branch of the southeast Michigan chain set up tables of food with artificially low prices to make basic necessities more affordable. The grocery store also asked regular customers to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar so that the remainder could be donated.
Equally close to where the tornado hit, the Dexter LaFontaine automotive dealership became a big player in the recovery.
Despite having nearly all of its cars sustain hail damage, Tony Duncan of LaFontaine insisted that the dealership got “very lucky. When [the two initial tornadoes] combined, that’s when it hit hard. We were up on a higher plane; it followed the valley.”
LaFontaine, like other businesses in the community and across the country, believed it had an obligation to use its relative fortune to assist however it could.
“We were doing relief work for a good two-week period. Our biggest thing was helping people who didn’t have a place to go or to eat,” Duncan said.
LaFontaine also helped a family that lost both of its cars find short-term replacements before coming to a permanent agreement later, and the dealership gave discounts on automobile purchases to customers who donated to relief funds.
The Ace Hardware in downtown Dexter, a place where many supplies were bought to rebuild damaged buildings, offered a variety of discounts and gave away many supplies for free.
Wings n’ Things, Chelsea State Bank, the radio station 102.9 W4 Country, and countless others all found ways to help make Dexter’s quick recovery a reality. Despite the tragedy of the tornado, it was a great demonstration of the selflessness of the Dexter community.
When Dexter was hit by a tornado on March 12, 2012, hundreds of homes and businesses were left damaged, and the town was scarred by the disaster but ultimately thankful for minimal injuries and no casualties.
A little more than a year later, much of the damage has been restored as many businesses and families have gotten back on their feet. One of the testimonies to this recovery is the reconstruction of the village car wash.
At the corner of Second Street and Central Street, the Village Car Wash and Laundry owns three separate buildings, including a car wash, laundromat and a small management building. Each of these buildings together have served as a landmark in the Dexter area since 1970, the year that the company was founded.
Its long history, however, was threatened when the winds from the EF-3 tornado struck. During the windstorm, the car wash served as a protective hiding place for several stranded travelers, but the structure itself did not fare as well as its inhabitants.
According to owner Pete Caffrey, “The tornado descended upon (the car wash) and blew certain portions of the roof off and one of the walls caved in. All three of the buildings were totaled.”
Despite this natural disaster, Pete and his wife Cheryl did not lose hope in their business. Wanting to rebuild from the ground up, the Caffreys sought insurance to recover their losses.
“We wish they had (covered everything), but we had to fight them tooth and nail for them to cover about two thirds of the costs,” Pete said.
Now, as the business has been completely rebuilt and refurbished with new equipment, the owners have a great outlook on the business. The owners hope that this will lead to better business and said that the reconstruction is a symbol of the town’s recovery from the tornado that hit a little more than a year ago.“We’re definitely excited, it’s all brand new, easier to keep up,” Pete said. “The car wash has much better lighting, the equipment has all been revamped and is better for the customers to use.”