Friday, March 16, 2012


I'm a trained weather spotter for Washtenaw county.   What that means is that every two years, I sit through a training class with a bunch of nerdy people that tend to obsess about things like the weather and being a ham radio operator and a having an anemometer hooked up to their computer.   It ain't me -  I don't fit in with this crowd, but several years ago, I decided I would do this thing. Since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated with the weather.   I wanted to be a meteorologist when I was in elementary school, not sure why I changed my mind.

So last night, I was driving home from work when my sister called and said " Are the trained spotter that saw the funnel cloud in Dexter?" I wasn't home I wasn't.   I could see the wall cloud in front of me as I was driving westward, but here in Michigan, we don't get the stereotypical tornado alley wall clouds like they do in, say, Kansas.  Like this:

Instead, we get a great gray blob of a cloud that goes all the way to the horizon - i.e. it looks like rain.   That's why it's hard to see a tornado in Michigan, because our geography of lakes makes the air very humid.  So it can look just like a field of gray.   The storm happened so fast that we really didn't get much of a chance to be warned to spot tornadoes like we usually do.   I received this email at 10:34 am:


I had commented to my coworkers, "Looks like we might get some rain tonight" and someone responded that they thought it was going north of us in Dearborn.   And that part was somewhat true...a line of storms did go north of us.  That evening, the sirens sounded in Lapeer as well.   But this storm certainly came out of nowhere fast.  But trained spotters did see one and sure enough, a tornado touched down in my little town.   Here's the storm report from the National Weather Service
3/15/12 Dexter Tornado

Dexter Tornado
A National Weather Service Storm Survey confirmed an EF-3 tornado touched down near Dexter, MI with maximum wind speeds of 135-140 mph. The path length was 7.2 miles with a maximum width of 800 yards. The tornado touched down at 5:17pm just northeast of the intersection of N Territorial and Dexter Townhall Rd. The tornado moved southeast and produced EF-1 damage with winds estimated at 100 mph. Damage was limited to uprooted and snapped trees as well as minor roof damage. The tornado strengthened as it hit the Horseshoe Bend Subdivision with winds estimated at 120 mph and structural damage to the outside of homes. The tornado then continued to track southeast alongside Dexter-Pinckney Rd. and produced EF-3 damage at 5:31pm. Winds estimated at 135-140 mph destroyed one home northwest of Dexter. The tornado then made a left turn and paralleled Huron River Dr. producing EF-2 damage on the north side of Dexter. The tornado then produced EF-3 damage again at 5:49pm in the Huron Farms Subdivision with winds estimated at 135-140 mph. One home was destroyed and another house had only interior rooms left standing. The tornado then weakened as it moved southeast and lifted at 5:52pm near the intersection of Zeeb Rd. and Ann Arbor-Dexter Rd.


That means that the tornado lifted just about 3 miles from my house.   I didn't get home until about 6 pm, so I missed it all.   But we are glad to be safe.  A tornado in March - who would think of it? 


Marla said...

I thought of you - I work in Southfield, and heard the weather warnings as I was driving home. I've looked at your canning advice so much that I knew you lived west of AA. Glad to hear you are OK. The news photos of the destroyed homes are frightening - this is Michigan! We don't get this stuff (normally)!!!!

Tricia said...

Glad you're okay - thanks for the detailed weather lesson!