Severe thunderstorms with winds up to 70 mph blew down power lines and trees and damaged buildings in Grant County Monday night.
The highest winds were reported roughly south of a line from Cassville to Platteville, with fire departments reporting winds of 65 to 70 mph in some places.Damage was caused to St. Rose School in Cuba City, which had part of its roof separated from the rest of the building. The school was closed Tuesday. Power lines were reported down on Pine Ridge Road west of Platteville, one of them causing a small fire at a house that Platteville firefighters put out. Power lines were also reported down on Grant County D and Grant County B west of Platteville. A tractor–trailer at Walmart in Platteville was blown onto its side by wind. The driver was not injured and was removed from the cab by Platteville firefighters.
“The storm seemed to take a bow-echo shape as it approached,” said Braun. “Most of our volunteer fire departments have wind meters and based on what we were hearing from Cassville and others, we decided to proactively sound warning sirens for the communities that we felt were most at risk for wind damage.”
Braun stated that there were reports of funnel clouds on four separate areas — between Cassville and Glen Haven on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River, near Aupperle Road south of Lancaster, near Willow Branch Road in the Town of Ellenboro, and north of the Platteville mound.
The National Weather Service does not believe these were tornadoes, however, stating that a shelf cloud is clearly visible above the feature in question so it's certainly an outflow area. It's possible what people were witnessing is called a ‘gustnado’ along with blowing dust as the outflow winds move along. This would be a brief spin up but just wind gusts moving along the ground.
One of the areas affected significantly was the areas around Potosi and Tennyson, which saw significant damage, and the residents there noted how violent the storm was. “It was very scary,” Nancy Miller said of the evening. She was sitting out with her sister earlier in the evening Monday when the weather radio she has went off twice, reporting to them that the severe weather appeared to be sweeping through the central and northern part of the county, away from them. Miller and her husband, Bill, are volunteer hosts at the Grant River Recreation Area.
They had picked up their chairs and went inside. Now with 40 years of camping, the couple had been through some storms, but they had never felt anything like they did Monday night, and those high winds played havoc with their camper, blowing the slide-out section on their camper in and out. “I was thinking ‘we are going to flip over,” Nancy said. “We were all holding hands and praying.”
Their camper did not overturn, fortunately. As there came a lull in the storm, Nancy stated that she did not want to remain in the camper any longer, and they decided to get into the truck and drive over to the restrooms, which is where campers are to go. As they began making their way to the truck, Trost received a call from her daughter telling her a report came in that a tree had fallen on a camper, trapping a man at Grant River Recreation Area. The Millers then decided to investigate where the camper was on the grounds. Turns out, they didn’t have to go very far, as the camper next to their’s was the one affected, and the tree was one they just had their Mothers Day celebration under. “We hadn’t heard it fall,” Bill said.
Trapped in the camper was a person who found that the tree blocked the door to get out. The person also found touching the door created a shock. Potosi firefighters rushed to the scene, but were delayed as the train was running slowly at the end of the storm. Fortunately, they were ok, and his camper suffered what appeared to be modest damage. He pulled the camper from the grounds to have the damage assessed.
From there, the firefighters had to make their way up the hill to assist Heather Emler and Marcus Groom at their home, where a tree pierced much of the rear of their home, including their bedroom, and the bedroom of their son, Wyatt. “It was very, very scary,” Heather said, hanging a plant basket back up at the front of her house. She and Wyatt were home at the time the emergency sirens went off.
Marcus is a member of the Potosi Fire Department, but his emergency radio did not have any details about the reasoning for the sirens going off. After conferring with a friend, Heather went inside and began shutting the windows in the house, but kept the front door open to monitor the weather conditions. All of a sudden the wind picked up outside, and Heather remembers thinking, “I think it’s time to get serious here and get to the basement,” and she ushered herself and Wyatt downstairs.
“There was such a draft, it nearly sucked the door out of my hand,” she said of pressure in the home nearly taking the basement door away from her. Heather said that the air filled with a roar, and thought of the old adage of a tornado sounding like a freight train. Then came a large bang at the home, likely when the tree fell. “It just shook the house and made this awful noise,” Heather reflected. “I think that noise is still in my head.” Heather received a text from a neighbor soon after that a tree had fallen on their house. When she ventured up to take a look, she thought it may have been a tree falling on the garage. She soon saw that it was a tree from the back yard that fell, causing extensive damage to the rear half of the house. The rear hosts two bedrooms, and sections of the ceiling have daylight shining in from where branches pierced the roof.
In Wyatt’s room, several branches lay at the foot of his bed, and near his closet. In their bedroom, a large branch sat across the bed, while the exterior wall was bashed in at the window where the main section of the tree smashed through. “What a mess,” Marcus said of the scene. “Lets just say last night I ran out of tears,” Heather said of the damage, so bad that they could not stay in the home. They are not sure how long it will take until repairs can be made so they can return. “It is just very overwhelming.”
Both Marcus and Heather said the silver lining was they saw how much the community rallies around those suffering through something like this. Most of the fire department was there to help them throughout the night, and on Tuesday neighbors and friends have been offering assistance however they could from cleanup to simply taking them out to eat. “This is dramatic, but the support we have received,” Heather started, noting sometimes its tough to find the words to express the appreciation they felt. “It’s wonderful, it really is.”
The Red Cross also assisted in getting them a hotel. Groom and Emler are getting married this summer, two months to the day after Monday’s storms. While the couple lost some personal effects, items related to the wedding came out largely intact - the invitations were on a table in the living room at the front of the house, and items like Heather’s wedding dress were ok. “We’re going to make it happen no matter what,” Emler said of the wedding.
Moving further east, across USH 61 and into Tennyson, one of the historic structures to feel the impact of the storm was St. Andrew’s Church, which saw a large section of the roof ripped off. Fr. Richard Leffler stated that the insurance inspectors would be at the church Wednesday, and an assessment would be made to determine how much of the roof would need to be replaced.