Mother Nature seemed to unload a summer’s worth of storms on Grant County Tuesday evening, dropping more than four inches of rain in many places, as well as creating a tornado that destroyed much of a rural Bloomington farm.
“I am a little overwhelmed,” said Wendy Myers, who along with her husband, Conrad, came home to find the roof ripped from their home as well as a barn and shed completely destroyed along Maine Road by a tornado that neighbors witnessed hung above their farm for 2.5 minutes.
Wendy came home after attending a volleyball match in Shullsburg to find the aftermath. She was met by her neighbor and the Bloomington Fire Department, who helped load antiques and large items into an enclosed trailer. “I cannot give the fire department enough credit,” Wendy said, “they pitched in, got out the big stuff.”
When the Myers got home, it was difficult for them to assess the extent of the damage, but as the sun rose Wednesday, the impact the storm had started to settle in. “I have seen plenty of things in the yard where I think ‘That was in the attic,” Wendy noted. Over the course of the morning, some items they pulled from the lawn were passports for the kids and other personal effects.
Conrad was in Madison visiting his father in the hospital and got home just after 9:30 p.m. “I knew it was pretty heavily damaged, but you do not get a grasp of it until the sun is up,” Conrad said as he pulled some tin off some bushes. He noted that 70 percent of what was in the house was “destroyed, wet, or sucked out,” but the kitchen was touched little by the storm.
Gazing across the Myers property, the power of the tornado could be seen any direction one looked. Large splinters of wood that had been supports for the barn were now hanging out the hole of what was the windshield of a semi that was used to haul grain. A grain bin looked like it had been punched by a giant. A tree three stories tall was snapped in two. And the roof of the home was scattered in every direction - framing sat next to what used to be a shed, shingles were 200 yards in the opposite direction near a tractor flipped onto its side.
What you also see in every direction on the farm Wednesday morning are dozens of friends and family who came out to help clean up. By 8:30 a.m., there were neatly stacked mounds of tree limbs, of tin that used to be the roof, of wood fragments. Volunteers combed the nearby field, looking for artifacts from the home, while one pulled an American flag that had been deposited into a bush. The family’s driveway was lined to the road with trucks and cars brought by the volunteers.
They also had gotten a skid steer, which had been in the barn, out to help with the cleanup, although it had some hydraulic issues.
“You know who your friends are and what good neighbors you have, and family,” Wendy said of the outpouring of support.
“That’s what makes you feel a lot better, that there are a lot of people around, willing to help,” Conrad added.
The River Ridge School District administrator and principal also stopped by to see how the family was doing, as one of their children is a student in the district.
One of the Myers’ daughters had been at the farm, feeding calves, then left when it started to hail. “Ten minutes later I get a call that our house was gone,” the daughter said, adding that it was pretty scary to see the aftermath of the storm. “Pretty much, it can be replaced,” she said of the items destroyed, but she added that the family and friends out cleaning up after the storm could not be replaced. “We live in a great area, everyone is willing to help.”
For Wendy, she was happy to find that her family and their animals had made it through. “Everybody is ok, most of our animals are unscathed,” she said, noting that they have yet to find a mule, as well as their housecat, Chinka, as of Wednesday morning. She said she was heartened to see that her daughter’s horses were fine, but their stud steer had received a cut above the eye, and their dog had been examined by a veterinarian after getting cut by debris. The rest of their livestock wandered the property or huddled near wreckage in apparent shock.
Julie Loeffelholz from Grant County Emergency Management surveyed the property. Loeffelholz said that the National Weather Service said there was little chance of tornadoes being created from the storm, but when storm spotters started calling in, everyone knew this storm was going to be dangerous.
“I think we’re very lucky more places did not get affected,” Loeffleholz said, describing the damage as “eerily like the movie Twister.”
Loeffleholz noted that most tornadoes that have struck in Grant County hit rural land, missing homes and buildings, and that what she saw on the Myers farm was similar to what she saw when she was in Adams County when a devastating tornado came through there. “This is pretty significant,” Loeffelholz said.
Surprisingly few damage calls
Funnel clouds had been spotted by spotters in Bagley, Glen Haven, Mt. Hope, and Bloomington, and the storm cell that created the Myers tornado made its way southeast before starting to breakup around Hurricane. Despite the strength of the storm - not only was there rotation, there was two-inch sized hail that fell in the western and central portions of the county, few reports of major damage had been called into the Grant County Emergency Management office, according to Director Steve Braun. Braun noted that firefighters assessed the area around the Myers farm and found little damage elsewhere. Crews in Bagley also reported no flooding.
There was a tree down in Patch Grove, and the Grant County Sheriff’s Department reported one squad damaged by the hail.