DEXTER (AP) - Events will mark the anniversary of a tornado that touched down last year in the Dexter area, northwest of Ann Arbor, as efforts to improve storm safety continue.
Most damaged or destroyed homes have been rebuilt, but some construction continues. Hundreds of trees felled by winds have been cleared. Sixteen new tornado warning sirens are up in Dexter Township alone.
No one was injured in the March 15, 2012, tornado, but the storm prompted officials to take a fresh look at severe weather preparedness. A federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security will help add 27 more tornado sirens in Washtenaw County.
PHOTO GALLERY: Tornado Rips Through Dexter
"We think we're ready again for another one," said Marc Breckenridge, director of Emergency Management for Washtenaw County.
The storm affected 266 homes, caused $9.1 million in damage and cost agencies an additional $1.2 million in debris cleanup, according to figures from Washtenaw County's emergency management division. About 20 houses were destroyed in the storm.
"The healing process was embraced by the community at large," said Dexter Village President Shawn Keough. "You realize just how important the basic elements of your everyday life really are.
"It's truly a blessing that nobody was hurt or killed. We feel very thankful for the simple elements of life: a home, car, your own bedroom, a roof over your head. If we weren't thankful for those things before, I think we all are now."
Among the events planned for Friday, an open house at LaFontaine Chevrolet runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and people can apply to get help from the Dexter Tornado Relief Fund, which still has about $37,000. The relief fund, which plans to shut down, raised about $330,000.
"We want to spend the money. For the most part, we have the sense that most people's emergency needs have been taken care of," said Nancy Paul, director of Faith in Action. "From our side, it feels good to be done."
Another planned anniversary event is the Dexter F 3.1 Tornado Run/Walk, which will be held at 7 p.m. at Hudson Mills Metropark. Following the storm, the park itself lost power and running water. Its 18-hole golf course also sustained significant damage.
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