Local 4 remembers Dexter tornado 10 years later

EF3 tornado did significant damage in 2012

Ten years ago today, one of our area’s most notorious tornadoes touched down. It was an officially rated EF3 tornado that did significant damage in Dexter. That tornado was an unusual one in that the twister’s forward speed was so slow. The Dexter tornado only traveled around seven-and-a-half miles in thirty-five to forty minutes. That meant that structures impacted by the tornado experienced those winds for a longer period of time than with a tornado traveling at a more typical speed. In fact, the tornado’s strength was more likely EF2, but because of the extended exposure, the damage ended up being EF3. So, the National Weather Service had no choice but to rate it an EF3 tornado, since the rating is based upon the damage caused.

DETROIT – Ten years ago on March 15, 2012, one of our area’s most notorious tornadoes had touched down.

The twister was officially rated an EF3 tornado, and it did significant damage in the city of Dexter.

That tornado was an unusual one, in that the twister’s forward speed was so slow. The Dexter tornado only traveled around 7.5 miles in 35-40 minutes. That meant that structures impacted by the tornado experienced those winds for a more extended period of time than with a tornado traveling at a more typical speed.

In fact, the tornado’s strength was more likely EF2, but the damage ended up being EF3 because of the extended exposure. So, the National Weather Service had no choice but to rate it an EF3 tornado since the rating is based upon the damage caused.

The tornado tore through Washtenaw County, damaging and demolishing more than 100 homes, downing trees and power lines, sparking fires and flooding neighborhood roads. Damage was concentrated in two subdivisions. About two dozen homes in a Huron Farms neighborhood were “pretty much unlivable.”

Chuck Gaidica and Paul Gross were on the air for nearly three consecutive hours, covering the twister. The pair earned Emmys in the weather categories that year for their coverage.

There also were unconfirmed reports of tornadoes touching down in Monroe County’s Ida Township and Northwest Lapeer County, near Columbiaville, where trees and power lines had been downed, according to the NWS. The storm reportedly packed wind gusts up to 70 mph in Lapeer County and 2-inch hail.

There weren’t any injuries reported from the tornado, but it was still devastating to the community. The Washtenaw County Emergency Operations Center assessed tornado damage at just under $10 million.

Here is a portion of the Local 4 coverage from the evening of March 15, 2012:

More viewer videos of the Dexter tornado:

See a timeline of the tornado here.


About the Author:

Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross was born in Detroit and has spent his entire life and career right here in southeast Michigan. Paul has researched, written and produced eight half-hour documentaries for WDIV, as well as many science, historical and environmental stories.