State Of Emergency Declared After An EF-2 Tornado Tears Through Northwest Wisconsin
Tornado Carves A Path For 30 Miles From Chetek to Conrath Wisconsin
CHETEK, Wis. – A State of Emergency was declared in Barron and Rusk counties in Northwest Wisconsin after a tornado tore through homes and properties on Tuesday night.
Rice Lake and Chetek sirens blared at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday as the sky turned dark and green. A tornado touched down near Chetek Wisconsin and traveled 30 miles to Conrath. Windows blew out and devastation turned many lives upside down as an EF-2 rated tornado barreled down on them.
“It was just so forceful and quick it was unbelievable. It just exploded everything.” explained a resident Darrin Seever that was in the direct path.
The violent tornado packing 120-130mph winds went right through the heart of Prairie Lake Estate Mobile Park.
The Sheriff of Barron county Christopher Fitzgerald said, “200 emergency personnel were on this scene Tuesday night trying to rescue people. They were literally pulling walls off of people that were trapped inside of their trailers or hit by debris.”
“You see them cut up in stitches and stuff because they rode it out in their trailer.” said Seever.
50 trailers sat in its path and 17 of them were completely destroyed.
Over 25 people were injured, 17 of them were rushed to the hospital and as of Wednesday evening 1 person is in critical condition.
One man was found dead, 45 year old Erik Gavin.
“His trailer was one that totally destroyed. He was found out on the ground, out in front, where his trailer would of been. So we don’t know if he was thrown out.” explained Sheriff Fitzgerald.
Seever was Gavin’s friend from high school and he explained, “I think he was sleeping, he works second shift driving a truck.”
Fox 21 Meteorologist Brittney Merlot explained, “These violent strong winds flipped cars upside down and rolled mobile homes many lots away in Chetek.”
As the tornado continued on it crossed the street and hit a Jennie–O turkey farm, destroying 6 of their barns.
Several other Jennie-O employees came to the Chetek location to help clean up and haul out the surviving turkeys.
Governor walker arrived Wednesday afternoon and declared the State of Emergency for Barron, Rusk and Jackson counties.
“It’s heart wrenching because you know everyone here and it’s just a small community that’s out in the country.” said Seever.
Residents were allowed back this afternoon to pick through and clean up what was left of their homes.
“There’s a lot of families’ right here and you see all their stuff scattered across the yard.” said Seever.
Clean up is underway but the Sheriff Fitzgerald says “The mobile home park is on private property, so it’s ultimately left to the residents to pick up.”
Sheriff Fitzgerald said, “If you are a logger or a truck driver and want to help, just call your neighbors, call your friends… that’s what Barron county is all about. It’s taking care of your neighbors and your friends.”
Meteorologist Brittney Merlot explained, “Through the debris and pieces of their lives scattered, the community is still coming together and picking up the pieces of their lives to be stronger. It’s great how tightly knit this community is.”