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Big storm pummels county
root ball
This 100-foot-tall tree managed to fall between Steve and Melinda Joness home and that of a neighbor, in Richland Center. (Photo by Melinda Jones)


A brief, but severe thunderstorm with high winds blew through Richland Center and parts of the county early Monday evening, leaving in its wake considerable damage to many residential homes and electrical infrastructure for the area.

Richland County Emergency Management reported on Tuesday that 22 homes sustained more than $110,000 in damage, four homes were still without power, and public sector damage is estimated to be more than $35,000.  However, no injuries were reported.  The storm seriously impacted the City of Richland Center, Village of Lone Rock, and Towns of Richland, Orion and Buena Vista.   

Richland County Emergency Management states that it will be working with the National Weather Service this week to complete a damage survey.

Richland Center Electric Utility Superintendent Dale Bender states that, for about 40 minutes early Monday evening, power was out in a portion of the city going east from the Brewer Substation, located near to the Richland Center Foundry. Businesses that temporarily closed included Walmart, Culver’s and Kwik Trip East.  

“Good tree trimming and infrastructure helped,” Bender said. “We were fortunate that no trees knocked poles down. We didn’t lose any poles. I thank the public for their understanding and help.”

Richland Center Alderperson, and former Richland County Sheriff’s Department Deputy, Marsha Machotka surveyed damage in Richland Center, which disproportionately occurred in the southeast part of town. She said at least five houses, a couple of garages and a few cars had trees fall on them and branches were down all over. However, according to Richland County Sheriff’s Department reports, trees fell on houses along Orange Street, too, and some power lines were down behind houses.

Staff members of The Richland Observer, downtown on Court Street, were in the office during the storm and heard a loud clatter outside. They looked out and saw that heavy winds tore off a decorative outside panel from a building across the street and it landed in a crumpled heap on the street.

Several city residents expressed relief that large fallen trees didn’t land on their houses. These include Steve and Melinda Jones, who had a 100-foot-tall tree land between their house and a neighbor’s.

Kevin and Alison Jacobson weren’t as lucky. A large pine tree pierced a hole in the roof of their house, damaged their garage, caused an estimated $7,500 damage on one of their cars and totaled out the other.

Jack Bauer was sitting in his recliner when a tree hit his house, knocking off the top of his window blinds, which came down and hit him in the head. Luckily, that did not injure him.

Richland Center Fire Department Captain Barry Roghair said that his department was called to respond at about 6 p.m. and that six units worked until 8 p.m. protecting the area. Firefighters put cones out, cleared large tree limbs from roadways and checked the status of power lines. For a short time, a large tree blocked U.S. Hwy. 14 by Chuck and Helen Sheafor’s property.

Richland County Sheriff Jim Bindl said that multiple phone calls came in to the department in the aftermath of the storm. He said people reported trees on houses, cars, fences and power lines. Bindl said it was apparent that the storm left Richland Center and headed towards Gotham and Lone Rock, where much damage was reported.

Bindl said that the Shell gas station in Lone Rock lost power for a time and the same thing happened briefly at D&Z’s. He said that the road was temporarily shut on State Hwy. 130 by the bridges and that a tree blocked out Olson Road in Sauk County for a time. He said there were places in Lone Rock where tree limbs busted down power lines to the ground and the electric meter on one man’s house was broken off by wind.

Despite all the damage, no injuries were reported. “That’s the blessing,” said Sheriff Bindl.

The Sheriff said he’s pleased that so many citizens brought out their chain saws to help many of their fellow residents. “That was heart-warming,” he said.

Richland County Emergency Management Director Darin Gudgeon states, “If you have experienced damage, citizens are encouraged to contact their insurance carrier, document the damage, be careful when using power tools to clean up debris, and contact Richland County Emergency Management at (608) 647-8187 with noteworthy property damage.  Also be careful when coming across power lines that are damaged or compromised.  Richland Center City Utilities, Richland Electric Cooperative, and Alliant Energy continue to repair damages to their electrical infrastructure systems.”