Friday, March 16, 2012

The Tornado Chronicles: Dexter and Ida, MI Area Tornadoes of 3-15-12...

***Update, 3/16/12, 3:45pm CDT:
The National Weather Service (NWS) has completed their survey of the Dexter area tornado and have rated it EF-3 intensity with maximum winds estimated at 140 mph.  They note a path length of 7.2 miles with a maximum damage path width of 800 yards.

Frankly, I was fully expecting the EF-3 rating by the NWS, however I think they missed something.  The preliminary report states "the most intense damage included houses destroyed with some interior rooms remaining".  The following screen grab from a video that was added to this post at the 7:25pm CDT update yesterday clearly shows a home with no walls - interior or exterior - remaining:

Though isolated to the single home above, that is EF-4 intensity damage (defined as no interior or exterior walls remaining).  You can see what I'm talking about in even greater detail when you watch the video.  The above home comes into view at approximately 40 seconds in.  Scroll down to the 7:25pm CDT update (below) and you can view it in its entirety.

I do agree that most of the remaining damage shown here and elsewhere is of no greater than EF-3 intensity.  It's hard to know whether the survey team actually saw the above home today, or if they did but assumed that some sort of demolition had taken place since yesterday afternoon.  The helicopter footage was in real time right after the tornado took place, so we know that the damage was caused by the tornado and not by any human intervention.

With all of the above said, I am still amazed, and very thankful, that no one was injured and there were no fatalities from this event!

There are still additional surveys to come, with one or more tornadoes likely near the Ida area as well.  We'll post updates on that as they become available...  

***Update, 3/16/12, 11am CDT:
A couple of new videos of the tornado near Dexter have emerged overnight and early this morning. This first one captions the tornado as "F3" - which is premature as the damage survey is only getting underway today.  As I pointed out in a video yesterday (see 7:25pm CDT update), there was apparent EF-4 damage to at least one home based in that video.

Anyway, here is the first of the new Dexter tornado videos.  Lots of yelling but I don't believe any bad language:

The next video, also from the Dexter area, shows a well developed tornado initially, then we appear to be witness one of the many transitions that were observed on radar where the circulation weakened and then reformed:

A couple of very telling damage photos via the Associated Press from the Dexter area:

...and one (same source) from the Ida area:

***Update, 8:25pm CDT: Very brief video of the Dexter tornado taken from Mast Road North of Huron Parkway:

...and from the same videographer taken from Mast Road to the South of North Territorial Road:

This very short video below shows damage in the Huron Farms subdivision. Another, more lengthy, video of damage in this area is shown further below at the 7:25pm CDT update:

***Update, 8:10pm CDT: Dexter, MI is located in Washtenaw County. Since at least 1950, this appears to be the earliest tornado event to ever occur in the region.  The previous earliest tornado of record took place on April 3, 1988 (which also means that today's event includes the first recorded tornado in this area during the month of March).  

Also, please note the additional comment added to the damage video in the update posted at 7:25pm CDT.  One home in that video has no walls remaining.  Depending on the construction of that home, this would suggest either EF-4 or very high end EF-3 damage.

***Update, 7:50pm CDT: Another photo of the tornado near Ida, MI (photographer unknown - via twitter):

***Update, 7:25pm CDT: The following damage and tornado videos have recently been posted from the Dexter, MI area.  In the first video, note that there are no walls remaining on the home shown at approximately 40 seconds into the video.  This implies at least EF-3 and possibly EF-4 damage (depending on the construction):

Media reports indicate that at least 200 families have been displaced in the Dexter area.  A temporary shelter has been established at the Mill Creek Middle School.

------------------------------------Prior Updates Posted Below:

***Update, 7:10pm CDT:  Another YouTube video has emerged of the Dexter, MI tornado (above).  

***Update 6:25pm CDT: The above photo was taken near Ida, MI, where numerous reports of damage have been received. Photographer unknown. If you took this photo and wish to be credited (or have the photo removed), please e-mail me.  

The following photo also appears to be near Ida and was taken by Kylie Desmond:

***Update 5:45pm CDT: The following YouTube video has emerged showing the tornado near Dexter, MI at the Hudson Mills Metro Park. WARNING FOUL LANGUAGE THROUGHOUT:

Please note, I am no longer "live blogging" the progression of the parent thunderstorm.  I will, however, be updating this post with photos and videos of the tornadoes and damage throughout the evening, so please check back for updates...

***Update 5:30pm CDT: Two more photos of the tornado near Dexter, MI from twitter follower @laurenluvsjeeps:

***Update 5:25pm CDT: A photo of residential damage has come forward from the Dexter area:

Meanwhile...the storm continues moving Southeast.  The circulation as indicated on radar has reorganized back to the South a bit over the last 10 minutes, and is now located just to the North of Saline:

Folks in and near Saline, Stony Creek and Milan should take tornado precautions until this storm passes.  This storm has a history of producing tornadoes and damage.

***Update 5:05pm CDT: The following photo of the tornado was reportedly taken just North of Dexter, MI and was just posted on storm chaser Nick Nolte's facebook page:

I realize the copyright stamp says 2011, however you can see that the photo was just posted on facebook by going to the link.  I can also see Nick's GPS signal on radar near the storm as well, so he is definitely chasing it at this time.  So, we will assume the above photo is "real" until we receive information that suggests otherwise.

Update, the photo was current.  Below is an even better one taken by Nick.  Please visit his website at for outstanding storm photos and videos:

Also, you can go to this link for another view of the tornado as taken by a resident of Dexter and provided to ABC7 News.

The circulation has weakened considerably on radar recently, however considering this storm's history it would be wise for folks in Barton Hills and Ann Arbor to stay in shelter until the storm passes.

---------------------------------------------Prior update:

***Update 4:50pm CDT: Tornado damage has been reported in the Dexter area. The circulation on radar continues to move toward the Southeast at about 15-20 mph...

This circulation is moving in the general direction of Barton Hills and Ann Arbor.  If you live in these areas, stay in shelter until the storm passes.

This is not the time to be driving home from work in this region either.  Stay inside a safe place until the storm passes.

---------------------------------------Prior update below:

***Update 4:40pm CDT:  The circulation on radar (above) is not quite as strong, but is still evident just to the North of Dexter.  The storm is moving Southeast at 20 mph.  If you live in Dexter, Barton hills, Ann Arbor or surrounding areas, stay in shelter until this storm passes.  

Hail up to golfball size is also possible, mainly to the North of the area of circulation.

--------------------------------------Original post below:

The above image was just taken from the Detroit area radar.  The left half is the radar in reflectivity mode (rain, hail, etc.) and the right half is the radar in velocity (wind speed and direction) mode.

You can see a severe thunderstorm to the West of the City (Detroit is located at the center right of each of the split screens) and moving Southeast at 15-20 mph. I have circled the tornadic circulation on the velocity image in yellow.  You can also see the classic "hook echo" signature on the reflectivity image.

If you live in Dexter, Barton Hills, Ann Arbor, Worden and surrounding areas, seek immediate shelter!

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