Dexter Tornado 10 years later: Remembering the community response


The Dexter Tornado of 2012. photo provided by Quaila Pant

In the aftermath of the EF3 tornado that hit Dexter 10 years ago, one theme that shone through in the midst of the damage was the community effort to help those in need.

The tornado struck on Thursday, March 15, 2012. By nightfall the heavy damage was apparent as Dexter-Pinckney Road was closed down because of debris while homes in neighborhoods like Carriage Hills and Huron Farms saw significant damage.

Fortunately, there were no deaths, but there were many people in need of help.

On the anniversary of the tornado, The Sun Times News (STN) looked back and spoke with some community members about the disaster relief effort.

Steve Feinman, who is also part of the Rotary Club of Dexter and is a former Dexter Township Board Trustee, remembers what stood out to him.

“The real story was the way the community went into action to help,” Feinman said.

There were various examples of this.

One big immediate need was getting the roads cleared. To address this, the Dexter Township Board at that time approved $200,000 toward the clean-up efforts on public right of ways.

And then help came from groups and places such as the Kiwanis and Lions Club, Busch’s grocery store, Operation BBQ Relief, LaFontaine Chevrolet, the Rotary and Red Cross.

For many offering help, it was just the natural and right thing to do.

The Lions Club is a great example of the community effort.

Longtime Lions Club member Dick Dettling said in the days that followed the tornado the club was able to secure a grant from Lions International to help with the effort. He said they bought thousands of dollars worth of gift cards from Busch’s, Meijer and Country Market and handed them out to residents in the neighborhoods left heavily damaged by the storm.

Lions Club members handed out supplies and lent a hand for those impacted by the tornado. photo courtesy of Ron Raiford

Lions Club member Ron Raiford said by 9 a.m. the morning after the tornado, Lions International had wired $10,000 into their emergency fund account to be used to help members in the community.

“We took that money and went and bought $250 gift cards to be given to those in need,” he said. “We split the club into four groups that each went to the different areas affected.”

Both Dettling and Raiford said the Lions are usually ready to respond in a community disaster. They have provided support for families that have lost their homes to fire as well.

Looking back, Raiford said, “I was new to the club at the time and I got to see first-hand what leadership looks like. They were a well-oiled machine that sprang into action as soon as they assessed the damage. I couldn't have been any prouder to be part of a community organization as the Lions.”

STN also spoke with Quaila Pant of LaFontaine Automotive about the community response. With many homes near LaFontaine left damaged, the auto dealership became a hub for some of the support going out to the community, including the Red Cross and Operation BBQ Relief.

For Pant, who has also served on the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, the day of the tornado was her first day on the job at LaFontaine. She remembers the scary moments attending a Chamber dinner as the tornado hit and heading into the basement for cover, and then in the aftermath seeing the damage done.

After what ended up being a scary first day, it was in the days that followed where she saw some memorable moments.

“It was amazing to see the community come together,” Pant said.

Operation BBQ Relief fed many people impacted by the tornado. photo provided by Quaila Pant
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