Storming Back: Tornado brought Dundee community togetherWritten by Patrick Timmis | | email@example.com
Few traces remain of the tornado that ripped through Dundee one year ago. But rebuilding continues for several of the hardest hit.
“We lost everything,” Brenda York said.
The storm destroyed her and her husband Mark’s house, vehicles and the building that housed their nursery business. Picking up the pieces has been slow and arduous.
“It probably took 10 years off my life,” she said. “It’s frustrating; it’s trying to piece things back together.”
But even for the Yorks, normality has begun to set in again. They’ve moved into their nearly completed new home and their business is back in operation.
They received lots of support along the way, she said, a statement echoed by local Tim Domber, who found a hole in his roof and a piece of wood sticking out of his siding after the storm.
“It was just incredible to me … the way we all pitched in and helped each other,” he said.
‘A giant weed-whacker’
June 6, 2010, was to have been the first day of operation for Dundee’s newly established police force. That Sunday morning was not the quietest of beginnings.
“There are not too many things that have really scared me like that,” Domber said.
The tornado hit Dundee shortly after 2 a.m., cutting power, knocking down phone lines, shredding homes and heavily damaging several businesses along M-50.
The town “looked like a giant weed-whacker went through it,” said Geoff Gale, an employee at the Cabelas retail store.
“On the street there were just piles, and you knew that’s where a house had been,” Domber said.
The Holiday Inn Express & Splash Universe was one of the town’s most damaged businesses. The tornado blew out a wall in the water park, tore off pieces of the roof, snapped mechanicals and broke a waterline, which flooded three floors of one of the hotel’s two wings.
“You could not step anywhere in this water park without stepping on debris,” said Keith Alexander, the hotel’s general manager.
Alexander said there was never any doubt that the hotel would reopen. But the process was painful.
“One of the worst things I had to do was lay off over 140 employees,” Alexander said. The hotel opened after three months. The water park finally reopened in March. Alexander hired back 150 employees, including many of those he had laid off. Spring Break hit and April was “one of our best months ever,” Alexander said.
The recovery, Domber said, created a much tighter-knit community. He met neighbors for the first time in the days following as the township pulled together to clean up as quickly as possible.
He spent 12 straight hours with one neighbor as, chainsaws in hand, they cleared away large maple trees knocked over on his property, stopping only for sandwiches provided by the Red Cross or Salvation Army.
David Uhl, the town’s sheriff, said people from the surrounding communities swarmed in to help. Many of them were police officers intent on preserving order, prohibiting gawkers and looters and preventing scams.
Joe Ross, a manager at Cabelas, said the outfitter sent water bottles, loaves of bread, jerky and all the food prepared for the day in the restaurant to help the efforts downtown. It was fantastic, he said, to watch the community react — even at a less local level.
“I don’t know how many calls I got from all over the state [offering to help],” he said.
When Domber checked his phone Sunday evening, he had 67 messages making sure he was safe.
The experience, Domber said, was terrible, something he never wants to go through again.
But the fruit of it, the heightened sense of closeness to each other, remains for the town.
“The community was just out of this world,” he said.
Dundee Baptist Church, which served as a staging site for relief efforts last year, will host a remembrance service from 3 to 6 p.m. June 5 to commemorate victims and those who helped them.
“We want to bring closure for people,” the Rev. Wayne Vann said. “We want to bring people together.”