Tornado victim credits TV warnings for survival - WNEM TV 5

Tornado victim credits TV warnings for survival

Patrick Kennedy says he will never look at severe weather the same.

"You see a semi in the air, it's unbelievable," he said. "Before I would have never thought about anything like that, now you think about a storm like that - and you're like, ‘that was three times worse than this one.'"

On March 15 Kennedy had a very personal encounter with the most ferocious type of severe weather - a tornado.

The tornado ripped through his Dexter neighborhood, the Huron Farms Subdivision.

"I was playing with my kids and then the warning came on the TV," Kennedy said.  

He says the storm started rather calmly with a lot of rain. But it was those advanced warnings that proved to be live-saving.

"I saw the black funnel cloud, it would have been way back there, probably about the Hudson Mills," he said. "I didn't wait until it hit my front step."

Instead, as the EF1 twister was barreling towards his house, he was rushing his 7- and 8-year-old kids and wife to the basement. The family huddled in a corner - not able to see what the tornado was doing to the floors just above their heads.  

When they came up from safety, they found a home in shambles.

"In here is the front room, it has significant water damage," Kennedy said. "It's all because the siding came off and came right down."

But the repairs are under way. In the meantime, his family is living in a rented condo. Kennedy hopes they'll be able to move back into their home in the next few weeks.

The Kennedys are lucky. There are structures in Dexter in much worse condition.

Following the tornado's track, an overwhelming number of blue tarps and homes with windows boarded up can still be seen.

"Currently I think we're working on a half dozen houses," said Mike Zielinski of Sun Glo Services.

His company is just one of the many contracting crews rebuilding the subdivision.

Washtenaw County officials say 13 homes were destroyed in the Dexter tornado.

"I think the total number of structures between Dexter Township and Dexter Village was like 272, that were affected," said Deb Schmitt, Wastenaw County inspections supervisor.

But with so many different contractors working in Huron Farms, TV5 asked how county officials are keeping the work and workers honest.

"My inspectors are out there every single day, they're doing inspections and they're looking for people that are doing work without permits," Schmitt said.

She says her office requires all contractors to be registered and licensed with the state - credentials that ensure they are doing quality work.

"We've required copies of the contracts to be given to us, along with the building permit applications," she said. "Just so they're not going out there and telling them that they have to pay a certain amount for a permit that they're not having to pay."

Meanwhile, Kennedy says he's thankful for that peace of mind. He's also mindful that insurance only covers material things.

"It doesn't really matter if you lose a roof or a chair or siding or a window, as long as people didn't get hurt, that was important," he told WNEM TV5.

The Dexter tornado was the strongest to hit Michigan this year.  Kennedy says he can't believe no one was seriously injured.  

"People were listening; you know they got the warnings in time," he said.

Copyright 2012 WNEM (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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