May 17, 2017 04:38 PM
The sheriff of Barron County, Wisconsin, said Tuesday night that one person has died, at least 27 people were injured and a mobile home park was largely destroyed by an apparent tornado.
Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald confirmed that one had died following the storm, which devastated the Prairie Lake Estates trailer park in the small town of Chetek.
The National Weather Service reported a tornado was confirmed by a spotter near Chetek about 5:35 p.m.
Fitzgerald said he has never seen an event as devastating in his 20-plus years of work. The majority of the trailer park's residents had been accounted for, Fitzgerald said, but added the park was populated by a number of elderly residents who had not yet been heard from.
Chopper 5 footage Tuesday night showed flattened homes, demolished turkey farms and felled trees throughout the area. Power lines were down and roadways blocked.
A spokesperson at Lakeview Medical Center in Rice Lake said 12 storm victims arrived by ambulance with non-life threatening injuries. A few had been released by 9:30 p.m.
School will be canceled in the Chetek-Weyerhaeuser district Wednesday and activities will be rescheduled, according to the district's Facebook page.
Meanwhile, a tornado was confirmed by spotters at 6:01 p.m. near Bruce, Wisconsin, about 10 miles west of Ladysmith in Rusk County and moving east at 30 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
The weather service reports half-dollar sized hail in the same area. It says flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter, that mobile homes could be damaged or destroyed, that damage to roofs, windows and vehicles will occur, and that tree damage is likely.
The service reports the tornado will potentially reach Ladysmith about 6:20 p.m. and Hawkins about 6:55 p.m.
A tornado watch remains in effect for most of norther Wisconsin until 10 p.m.
Other areas that could potentially be affected by the storm's path include Tony, Conrath, the Rusk County Airport, Ingram and Glen Flora. The weather service says everyone should take cover immediately in a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building and avoid windows.
A tornado warning remains in effect for southeastern Rusk County until 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, the NWS reported structural damage caused by a tornado at 5:35 p.m., 4 miles northwest of Chetek, Wisconsin, in Barron County.
The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for Barron County, Wisconsin, after rotation was spotted late Tuesday afternoon.
KSTP Chief Meteorologist Dave Dahl said residents in the areas of Rice Lake, Turtle Lake and Barron should take shelter. Dahl added it appears the system is moving to the east-northeast just south of Barron at about 30-35 miles per hour.
Hail reportedly 1 inch to 1.5 inches in diameter was falling in Turtle Lake as the storm moved through.
Meanwhile, a large area of thunderstorms moving about the same speed passing through the Twin Cities will likely intensify as it moves to the east as the evening goes on. But that swath will likely be the last of the strong thunderstorms hitting the metro before midnight. Areas in Pine County could still see some hail this evening, Dahl said.
Severe weather, including severe thunderstorms and flash flooding, continues to be expected in southern Minnesota and eastern Wisconsin, according to the NWS.
The weather service issued a severe thunderstorm warning Tuesday for southern Minnesota and eastern Wisconsin. Counties impacted in Minnesota include Dakota and Goodhue Counties. St. Croix and Polk Counties in Wisconsin are experiencing severe thunderstorms as well. Both storms are producing hail, according to the NWS.
Flash flooding is also expected in the area. Flood warnings have been issued in Wisconsin and Minnesota counties including Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Rice, Steele, Waseca, Chippewa, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pepin, Pierce and Rusk Counties.
Some roads may be impacted by the flooding. The National Weather Service does not advise driving through flooded areas.
Michael Oakes, Kirsten Swanson and Jay Kolls
Updated: May 17, 2017 04:38 PM
Created: May 16, 2017 04:15 PM
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