Monroe County, Dundee come together after tornadoWritten by Mary Petrides and Betsy Woodruff | | firstname.lastname@example.org
People say tornadoes sound like freight trains.
Neighborhoods in Dundee were almost as noisy June 7, the day after a tornado swept through the village. Generators rattled, chainsaws buzzed, wood chippers hacked as they cleared up the debris.
“Every place along here, neighbors, families are helping each other. Got done with one and went to another,” said Richard Rod, a northern Michigan resident who was visiting his daughter in Dundee when the storm hit.
“Everybody pitched in,” he said. “I mean everybody, too.”
At 2 p.m. June 7, 17 volunteers and administrators from a dozen different groups met at Dundee Baptist Church to assess damages and pool resources.
“There’s no time for us to be duplicating services,” said Major Mary Thomas, corps officer for Salvation Army.
Dundee Baptist Church leaders offered the church because it had electricity June 6. The church quickly became the hub of volunteer efforts.
It was decided at the meeting to have a one-stop service center at the church from 1-5 p.m. June 8-9. Representatives from Red Cross, Salvation Army and Michigan Department of Human Services would work with individuals and families to assess and meet needs.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers formed chainsaw crews and went all over the village clearing fallen trees. Chainsaw crews had signup sheets and permission forms available at the church.
Mary Massie, volunteer for Salvation Army, said June 7 that people in Dundee have been hopeful and helpful. One woman whose car had been tossed around came in to help out, Massie said.
“She said there’s people worse off than her,” Massie said.
The commnity still needs nonperishable food and hygiene items. Call the Red Cross at (734) 289-1481 or the Salvation Army at (734) 241-0440.
“I waited 40 years to see a tornado”
Before June 6, TJ Arnold, 10, was terrified of tornadoes. He watched “Twister” when he was 3 years old — without his mom’s consent, of course — and developed a paralyzing paranoia of the massive storms.
He used to cry when it snowed because he was worried a tornado was coming, he said.
Then one came to Dundee, his hometown.
TJ and his mother, Jenifer, live in a trailer park in Dundee. If not for a call from a worried cousin in Toledo, they would have been in their trailer during the storm.
“Are you OK?” he said when he called them. “You’re not gonna be for long. Get out of the mobile home!”
The mother and son fled to the basement of the apartment building where their friend, Teresa Rivera, lives. They crowded into a small room with six families and three dogs.
Jenifer went upstairs to watch the storm.
“I waited 40 years to see a tornado,” she said. “It was pretty extreme.”
She said as the storm neared, paper and debris swirled in the air of the room. The miniblinds were whipped up. Then, there was a moment of calm when they simply stood directly out from the wall, and she knew the tornado had come.
Jenifer ran to the basement at the last moment and had to hold the door closed with her body weight against the gusts of wind.
“It was the most tremendous ordeal I have witnessed in my entire life,” she said.
Rivera was impressed by how TJ reacted to the storm.
“I gotta say, you handled it better than those teenage girls,” she told him.
When they returned to their trailer, they saw that the wind had whipped it around and its foundation needs to be re-set.
TJ is not afraid of tornadoes anymore.
“I was waiting for the bad part to come,” he said. “I thought it would be 100 percent worse than this.
“Tornadoes aren’t that bad,” he added. “They’re just noisy and that’s about it.”
The aftermath has been worse for TJ and Jenifer than the storm itself.
Jenifer said some people were looting in their trailer park. Several people had the metal skirting from their trailers stolen. One family’s grill was taken while they were cooking on it. Jenifer said she was afraid to leave her trailer for any significant length of time.
She said she has baseball bats in every corner of her home to protect herself and her son from looters.
“All I have is a little plastic sword,” TJ said.
“It’s exhausting,” Jenifer said. “It’s really mentally exhausting.”
They went to a Salvation Army mobile canteen with Rivera to get fresh water, and TJ was impressed by what he saw the volunteers doing.
“We came up here and he said, ‘I like that,’” Rivera said.
TJ said he hopes to volunteer with the Red Cross someday and help others whose lives are rocked by natural disasters.
“We thought he was a jerk until the night of ”
Graham Tyo and his fiancée Brianne Uerkwitz heard a siren from their third-floor apartment at about 11:30 p.m. June 5 and the storm hit around 2:30 a.m.
“All of a sudden it started pouring,” Tyo said. The sky flashed green like lightning and the building shook.
Uerkwitz said until the tornado, they didn’t really know any other tenants, except an elderly lady they would greet in the hallway. After the tornado, however, tenants talked with each other.
“As soon as it calmed down, people started coming out of their apartments … started banding together,” Tyo said.
Tyo and Uerkwitz met one neighbor who turned out to be kinder than they thought.
“We thought he was a jerk until the night of,” Tyo said.
Some residents left to stay with relatives, and tenants who stayed have been checking up on each other.
“We went door-to-door seeing who’s in the building,” Uerkwitz said. “There were some elderly people on the first floor and we wanted to make sure they’re OK.”
“Nobody was hurt in our complex,” Tyo said, and other than a blown-out window in a common area, the building was barely damaged.
“So far the only effect we have is no electricity,” Tyo said.
They said they hadn’t heard about looting in their apartment complex, but they did see a small, suspicious-looking car driving around the parking lot.
“I don’t take chances with that sort of stuff,” Tyo said.
The two came to Dundee Baptist Church to volunteer June 7.
“We figured we got lucky,” Tyo said. “Other people have it a lot worse.”
“It’s not like we’re missing a roof or anything,” Uerkwitz said.
Uerkwitz said despite the storm, she was happy to meet her neighbors.
“It shouldn’t take that for people to say ‘hi’ or get to know each other,” Uerkwitz added.