The first round of severe spring weather spawned at least three tornadoes in central Wisconsin on Sunday evening. Strong winds from the line of storms also knocked tree limbs on power lines and caused several outages.
A trained spotter saw a tornado near Little Chicago in Marathon County at 6:16 p.m., according to a local storm report on the National Weather Service Web site. An emergency manager reported a tornado at the same time about three miles south of Merrill on the Lincoln-Marathon county line on Highway 51. About a minute later, law enforcement reported a tornado near Hamburg in Marathon County. It is unclear whether all three reports refer to the same twister.
There were also unconfirmed reports of a tornado sighting in Langlade County.
The tornado in Hamburg destroyed a barn and damaged at least two or three homes, according to a county official and amateur radio reports.
The Weather Service will likely send crews Monday to investigate the damage and confirm whether it was, in fact, caused by a tornado.
Merrill Mayor Bill Bialecki says it had to be a tornado that ripped through the northwest side of his city based on the damage he saw in the industrial park and along Highway 107. Homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. Eyewitnesses say Northern Wire factory was badly damaged though a reporter could not verify the damage because the scene was blocked off by police.
“These businesses – some of them are completely destroyed,” Bialecki said by phone. “I don’t mean a little bit – I mean big time.”
Neighbors in Merrill pitched in with heavy trucks, chain saws and their own human hands to clear the debris. They described the storm as a train rushing through or an airplane roaring low overhead.
“It was scary,” said Clement Allen as he and his wife Barb cleared a fallen tree from the road in front of his wife.
Further south, another storm system brought heavy rain and damaging winds to the Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point and Waupaca areas. There were also reports of three-quarter to nearly two-inch size hail in parts of Portage and Waushara counties.
At least several homes or barns were blown down at Fremont in Waupaca County, Stockbridge in Calumet County, Kaukauna in the Fox Valley, and Armstrong Creek in Forest County. La Crosse had tennis-ball-sized hail that damaged about 15 homes and several vehicles. Part of a roof was blown off a convenience store in Neenah. Osseo in Trempeleau County had numerous windows broken due to high winds and Green Lake had minor street flooding.
Funnel clouds were spotted at Denmark east of Green Bay, and at Dale west of Appleton, Necedah in Juneau County, and Oakdale in Monroe County.
Matt Lehman-WSAU and Wheeler News