GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The tornado that hit Dexter on March 15, 2012, cut a nearly 8-mile path through southeastern Michigan and caused millions of dollars in damage.
On March 15, 2012, unseasonably warm and humid air moved up into southern Michigan. The high temperature that day in Grand Rapids reached 74 degrees and Detroit soared to 77 degrees. Those temperatures are roughly 30 degrees warmer than average for the middle of March.
The air was also unseasonably humid, with dew point temperatures climbing into the low 60s.
Thunderstorms developed over southeast Michigan and became severe, producing very large hail and three tornadoes (the entire state of Michigan had just three tornadoes in all of 2022). The map above shows severe weather reports from March 15, 2012.
There were 254 reports of severe weather from 13 different states that day. This included six tornadoes, 24 reports of wind damage and a whopping 224 reports of severe criteria hail (11 of those reports were of hail bigger than golf balls).
In Michigan, wind gusts hit 70 mph at Davison, near Flint, and hail the size of hen’s eggs was reported near Ann Arbor. There were 31 reports of severe hail (1 inch in diameter or greater) in Michigan that afternoon. In all of 2022, there were 46 reports of severe criteria hail in the entire state.
The Dexter twister first touched down northwest of the town in Washtenaw County around 5:18 p.m. It continued on the ground for nearly 38 minutes before finally lifting.
The Dexter tornado has been rated an EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Peak winds from the tornado were 135 to 140 mph and occurred at two different locations along the tornado’s path.
The tornado was on the ground north of I-94 continuously for 7.6 miles. The average width of the tornado was 400 yards with a maximum width of 800 yards (or nearly half a mile wide).
Damage estimates were over $10 million. Several homes were totally demolished by the twister and dozens of others had significant damage.
A couple of interesting features about the Dexter tornado: First, it moved from northwest to southeast, like the Portland, Michigan, tornado of 2015. Most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast or due west to due east.
Had the twister continued on its path, it would have headed right into Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus.
The tornado also stopped for about 5 minutes, rotating over the same area.
There were two other tornadoes that afternoon/evening in southeastern Michigan. The first was an EF2 then hit near Columbiaville in Lapeer County. That tornado had a 4.5 mile path. The second was an EF0 tornado near the town of Ida in Monroe County.