Eau Claire area, WI tornado outbreak, Sept. 1982

Eau Claire taillies cost of 6 twisters

Special to the Journal, AP

Eau Claire, Wis. - Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property was destroyed but injuries were few as tornados and devastating wind storms whipped the Eau Claire area Sunday afternoon and evening.

Eau Claire Police Chief James McFarlane said about $750,000 in damage was done in the city to homes and apartment buildings. Sheriff Larry Jacobsen said a conservative estimate of damage in the rest of the county was $500,000.

Dennis Bennett, Eau Claire County emergency management director, said six tornado touchdowns were confirmed between about 4:15 and about 10 p.m. Sheriff offices said they counted two in Dunn County and one in Chippewa County.

The National Weather Service could only confirm that three tornados touched down. It also reported several airborne funnel clouds.

Bennett had no immediate estimate of damage in the area. He said, however, that at least five homes were destroyed. Scores of others reportedly were damaged.

A spokeswoman for the Northern States Power Co. in Eau Claire, Lynn Moline, said wide areas were without power Monday. She said power should be restored during the day Monday.

Moline reported that power was out on the south side of Eau Claire and the neighboring Town of Washington, areas which took the brunt of the tornados. Power also was out in the west side of the city.

Moline also reported scattered power failures in and near Menomonie, Durand, Mondovi, Boyceville and Downsville.

Harvey Borchers, manager of the Eau Claire exchange of Wisconsin Telephone Co., reported some intermittent problems with phone service.

The damage was widespread and caught many people by surprise.

"We are lucky just to be alive," said Murial Cigan, after looking over the wreckage of her home in the Town of Washington. Cigan and her husband, John, looked out the windows and saw flying debris go past the house.

"It sounded like stuff was hitting the door," she said. "We headed for the basement and just got to the steps when the house was hit. I thought we had it. I couldn't find my husband at first, but he was behind me. It was a relief."

Rick and Brenda Miller, in the house next door, were buried under debris when the tornado struck their split level home.

"We crawled out from underneath, saw the light, and everything was gone," Rick Miller said. "My mouth was full of insulation.

The Miller home was destroyed, along with most of the furnishings, with the exception of a chest of drawers, which was untouched.

"It just came all at once with no warning," Donald Roberts, 63, said. "It was just a beautiful day with no rain or warning, and just out of the clear, bang, it hit."

The tornado that did the most damage struck south of Eau Claire at about 4:30 p.m. It hit in the rural area in the Town of Washington, damaged houses and trees and knocked over a garage as it traveled along Golf Rd. It knocked over a trailer house and severely damaged roofs on several apartment houses and just missed the new Eau Claire South High School.

It then hit the Karen Court area just outside the city limits, where it destroyed three houses and severly [sic] damaged about a dozen others.

It knocked out power in the area as it moved along E. Hamilton Dr. It skipped over the Hillcrest golf course and moved into the city of Altoona where it damaged roofs on four apartment houses and destroyed a duplex owned by Lowell Odegaard.

Another tornado struck south of Menomonie in the Dunville Bottoms area. It destroyed a number of farm buildings.

At about 7:30, a twister struck southwest of Eau Claire along Highway 85. It destroyed a trailer home and garage owned by Loretta Johnson before heavily damaging buildings on the Karl Rieckemann farm.

Another tornado reportedly hit in the Town of Wheaton in southwestern Chippewa County, damaging a number of farm buildings.

A twister was reported near Mondovi in Buffalo County south of Eau Claire. Damage to farm buildings was reported at Wheaton in Chippewa County north of Eau Claire.

The Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, WI, 13 Sept 1982