MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The sheriff of a small western Wisconsin town says damage from suspected tornadoes Tuesday night is like nothing he’s seen in more than 20 years in law enforcement.
One person is dead and more than two dozen others are hurt after the apparent tornado hit Chetek around 5:45 p.m. The Barron County Sheriff says more people are unaccounted for, and at least one entire block of trailers is gone.
In aerial footage of the damage, it’s difficult to tell where structures once stood. Much of the damage is to the Prairie Lake Estates mobile home park, where some people were trapped in their trailers.
“The outpouring of support has been tremendous,” Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said. “If I have one smile on my face, it’s because of that ourpouring of support.”
We know of two other tornadoes that hit western Wisconsin — one in Weyerhaeuser and one in Ladysmith, according to the National Weather Service.
First responders and rescuers plan to stay in the hardest hit part of Chetek all night. They’ll continue to search for victims.
Power lines were down, trees were ripped out from their roots and homes were flattened.
The NWS has also issued a severe thunderstorm warning in Buffalo County, Wisconsin and Wabasha County, Minnesota until 9:45 p.m.
Those storms are already producing heavy downpours and hail in the southwestern Twin Cities, rolling towards Wisconsin, where forecasters expect the threat to increase.
With high temperatures into the 80s Tuesday, muggy air and wind gusts approached 30 miles per hour in the Twin Cities area, creating conditions ripe for a severe storm system.
The heavy rain is also raising the risks for flooding, particularly in southeastern Minnesota where storms continued to develop late into Tuesday evening. Buffalo County in Minnesota is under a flash flood warning until 1:45 a.m.