‘Like A Bomb Went Off’: Volunteers Help Wisconsin Tornado Survivors Pick Up Pieces

CHETEK, Wis. (WCCO) — Volunteers are gearing up for a busy weekend in western Wisconsin.

Tuesday evening, an EF-2 tornado tore through parts of Polk, Barron and Rusk counties. The storm killed one person and hurt two dozen others.

Now, three days later, emergency relief is moving in to help survivors pick up the pieces.

The worst of the storm hit about 120 miles northeast of the Twin Cities in Chetek at the Prairie Lake Estates Mobile Home Park.

This is the first look non-residents have gotten up close of the damage. It’s heartbreaking to see and it’s also a lot of work to begin cleaning up.

The debris and destruction is overwhelming in the small community of Chetek. But the support is equally great.

“It’s a lot worse than I believed it would be. I thought, just from like pictures and stuff, it wasn’t as bad as it really was,” Jeff Cassell of Rice Lake said.

Volunteers from near and far came to help dig through what’s left of the Prairie Lake Estates Mobile Home Park.

Nicole Wood drove up from Woodbury, Minnesota.

“It’s pretty bad. The worst part is seeing children’s toys. That’s the saddest part,” Wood said.

Toys, jewelry, pieces of concrete and mangled metal.

“A lot of wood with nails, so it’s pretty dangerous. A lot of glass, shrubs, tons of debris,” Wood said.

Hours of cleaning up, stacking debris and bagging trash seemed to only make a small dent in what could be weeks or months of rebuilding.

“This awful. It looks like it exploded, like a bomb went off,” Melvin Hermansen of Hudson said.

But for the people affected, the generosity will last a lifetime.

“It’s great to see people doing this,” Hermansen said.

“Everyone is just ready to help so it’s amazing how people come together,” Wood said.

The Barron County Sheriff’s Office is still accepting volunteers to help clean up through the weakened.

If you’re interested in doing that they have a meeting point in Cameron. Click here for more information.

More from Kate Raddatz
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