WI statewide tornado outbreak, Apr 1984

3 killed, dozens injured as tornados wrack state

By Sandy Wilson

Three people died, dozens were injured and several others were rescued from collapsed buildings as at least 15 tornados and severe thunderstorms struck the state Friday.

The storms, accompanied by winds gusting to 70 mph and hail the size of golf balls, swept east across the state, the National Weather Service said.

Deaths were reported in Winnebago, Waukesha, and Oneida Counties.

-In Waukesha County, Loretta Stubbe, of Wales, died when her mobile home was destroyed. Her body was found in a nearby field. Stubbe's husband, Orville, and son, Russell, were hospitalized.

-In Winnebago County, Ellen Schoening was killed when a tornado struck a home in the Town of Clayton. Her sister was hospitalized.

-In Oneida County, Ray Sloan Sr., owner of the Fawn Lake Lodge, near Lake Tomahawk, died after being sucked from a two-story house and hurled about 200 feet.

Anthony J. Testolin, director of the Bureau of Field Services and Disaster Resources of the Division of Emergency Government of the State Department of Administration, said National Guard troops were dispatched to aid local authorities.

He said no damage estimates were available Friday night. "It's very premature," he said.

Testolin said preliminary reports indicated there had been an effort to keep a count of the number of tornado touchdowns in the state, but "We lost track. We would say 15 to 20, minimum."

-Waukesha County: Tornado touched down near Wales at the intersection of Highways 18 and 83 and near Highways 18 and G, destroying 10 houses and 3 barns.

An additional 14 houses along the storm's six-mile long path received substantial damage. A preliminary estimate put damage at at least $500,000.

Twelve people were injured. Admitted to Waukesha Memorial Hospital were Orville Stubbe, 65; Russell Stubbe, 35; and Donald Leifer, 16. The elder Stubbe and Leifer were in critical condition. Russell Stubbe was in satisfactory condition. Nine persons suffered minor injures and were treated and released.

Robert Ireland, a lietenant with the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department, surveyed the area in the Flight for Life helicopter. "It looked like a typical tornado. Some houses were hit and some were skipped over. Barns were hit with ouses still intact," he said.

Fire and police departments from about a dozen communities converged on Kettle Moraine High School where officials set up a command post.

Nordeen Richards, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross said Red Cross personnel from the Waukesha Regional Office will be manning phones beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday to assist people displaced by the storm.

-Winnebago County: Sheriff Terry Footit called the tornado that hit there "the worst in at least 10 years." At least 3 persons were injured, and 20 homes and 4 barns were destroyed or heavily damaged, officials said.

-Outagamie County: Eight persons in the sparsely populated Greenville area west of Appleton were injured, according to Adrian Arens, Outagamie County emergencies director.

Arens said 20 houses were badly damaged and that 5 of them were virtually destroyed. The injured included a woman and two children who were trapped for a time in their shattered home west of Appleton.

-Oneida County: Extensive damage was reported in the Lake Tomahawk area. Rescue workers had to use chain saws to cut through debris blocking a large subdivision.

Warren Seeke, a sergeant with the Oneida County Sheriff's Department, said power lines and trees were down throughout the county. "It's just a big mess," he said.

Rhinelander police said rescue personnel freed a man who was trapped in his home on Lake Tomahawk. Debris and trees in the roadways delayed attempts by rescue personnel to get to the home, police said.

Helen Evans narrowly escaped death when a couch landed on top of her, protecting her as the winds flattened her mobile home in the area north of Lake Tomahawk. She was hospitalized.

Eight people were treated for lacerations and fractures at Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff after a tornado struck Lake Tomahawk about 2:50 p.m., said Paul Miller, president of the hospital.

Vilas County: A tornado reportedly damaged three homes and a resort in the St. Germain area, but no one was injured, authorities said. Eleven National Guard troops were sent to the area.

Jerry Beese, a firefighter with the St. Germain Volunteer Fire Department, said the tornado traveled about three miles on the ground, blowing down timber in a narrow corridor as it headed toward Big St. Germain Lake.

The tornado crossed the lake and continued through the woods across Highway 155.

"We're wiped out," said Werner Benicke, owner of the Rustling Pines Resort on Lost Lake, northeast of Big St. Germain Lake.

Benicke said most of the resort's nine cabins were torn up.

"I didn't see it. I heard it...just a big roar, a big wind," Benicke said.

"I saw a warning on TV, and the house started shaking. We're below the hill next to the lake. We didn't have a basement. I crawled in the crawl space under the building. I got down there as fast as I could. I saw the walls start giving in..."

Benicke said he was home alone. His wife was at work and his daughter was at school.

"A tree went through my daughter's bedroom, but the house stayed standing. I had a funny feeling, like being in a vacuum. You couldn't hardly breathe," Benicke said.

Camille De Raimo described what happened at her home on the northern shore of Big St. Germain Lake:

"It happened so fast, there was no warning at all. All of a sudden, there was a big gush. As I hit the basement stairs, the front roof caved in."

The wind blew the De Raimos' boat out of the water and into the back yard. The boat was wedged between two trees, she said.

Doris and William Minnich, owners of a resort on Big St. Germain Lake, said may trees were blown down. Heavy steel rafts, boats and canoes were blow [sic] into the shoreline, the Minniches said.

-Portage County: Two funnel clouds were reported about 2:30 p.m. in southeastern Portage County. Sheriff Daniel Hintz said a barn and two houses were substantially damaged.

At one of the homes, the storm destroyed a garage, whipped off the roof, damagaed cars and blew out a picture window, Hintz said.

"In all probability, there will be more damage reports coming in," Hintz said.

A mobile home was also blown off its foundation.

-Menominee County: Extensive damage was reported in the Legend Lake area.

There were 8 h omes severely damaged and 12 to 14 partially damaged.

A shelter staffed by Red Cross volunteers was opened in the Menominee High School. About 50 people had gone to the shelter by 8:30 p.m. Friday. Nine deputies from outside the county were called in to aid the Sheriff's Department.

The Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI 28 Apr 1984
Tornado blasts into their lives

Town of Genesee - The tornado that roared through Waukesha County Friday "exploded" into the lives of Tom Cassidy and his neighbors.

"It was a big funnel from the sky," said Cassidy, 18, of W299 S1170 Brandy Brook Rd. "It was like everything exploeded. There was stuff flying all over the place."

Cassidy, who was standing with family members outside his home at the time, spotted the tornado over a small hill, just south of his house.

"We thought it was going to hit our house," Cassidy said. "It was coming right at us.

"When we saw it, we ran straight into the garage and watched."

The tornado touched down only seconds later, Cassidy said, and a house and mobile home about 50 feet from the Cassidy home were destroyed.

"When it (the tornado) was gone, we ran across the street and tried to help the Stubbes," Cassidy said.

Mrs. Stubbe was found dead in a field about 500 feet away from where her house trailer had been. There was no trace of the trailer.

Both her husband and son were injured. Mr. Stubbe was in critical condition at Waukesha Memorial Hospital, and their son was listed as satisfactory.

The tornado touched down south of Wales near Highways D and E about 4:20 p.m. and continued about 6 miles in a northeasterly path before dissipating near Dover Bay subdivision in the Town of Delafield.

Waukesha County Sheriff's Department Lt. Robert Ireland, who surveyed the area in a Milwaukee County Medical Complex helicopter, said, "Some houses were hit and some were skipped over. Barns were hit with houses still intact."

Ireland said 10 homes were destroyed, "and I mean flattened," while 14 others were seriously damaged.

The home of former Milwaukee Brewer Gorman Thomas, which is in the Dover Bay subdivision, was untouched, but only 500 yards away the roof was torn off another home.

Waukesha County Coroner Donald Eggum said an injured Dover Bay subdivision resident told him he saw the tornado coming and rand down into his basement just seconds before the twister hit.

Eggum said the man saw the entire home blown away before he was thrown across the length of his basement, striking his head against a wall.

Cassidy said the tornado left a circle of debris, including shattered boards, farm equipment and clothing. Debris was scattered over an area of about 400 square yards. One tractor was thrown about 50 yards, Cassidy said.

Some of the debris hung from trees and utility lines.

Neighbors in the area formed small groups to try to gather cows that were freed when fences were destroyed.

Many of the residents in the area said they were in their basements when the tornado touched down.

A family from the Town of Genesee, where the tornado first touched down, said they saw a neighbor's mobile home explode.

"We had watched it (the tornado) come through Wales," said Karen Brendemuehl, who lives on a farm just outside Wales. "We saw it hit the earth and home. It was an explosion.

"It picked things up like a kid picks up toys - just tossed them," said Brendemuehl's husband, Jack. "It was just above our garage and lifted up. It went across a cornfield and it blew that house right into the air."

Mrs. Brendemuehl described the tornado as "big, round, black clouds."

Structural damage in the area was estimated at $500,000 by officials.

"But by the time you replace paintings and valuables and things like that it's going to be much higher," said Lt. Gary H. Paluszcyk. "We were very fortunate that the torando wasn't a little farther wet or a little farther east because it went between the Village of Wales and the City of Waukesha," he said. "I'm not saying it wasn't bad, but it could have been worse."

Paluszcyk said the storm affected an area 43 blocks wide by 45 blocks long south of Interstate 94 and on either side of Highway 18.

Fire and police departments from about a dozen communities converged on Kettle Moraine High School , where officials set up a command post.

Waukesha County Sheriff Raymond Klink called in all off-duty officers at 4:47 p.m. and asked al available squads from county police agencies to report to the Wales area.

Numerous power and telephone lines were reported down and communication was slow in some areas. Traffic from gawkers clogged area roads, especially near Highways 18 and G, authorities said.

Thirty MIlwaukee County sheriff's deputies were called in to aid in search and night patrol duty.

The Wales Fire Department was inundated with rescue calls and had to request aid from neighboring fire departments.

Mr. Eggum, and his wife, Joyce, said they were at a bank near Highway SS and Interstate 94 when they looked up and saw a twister in the sky.

"it looked like a giant funnel," said Mrs. Eggum. "People didn't use their heads. I saw people tearing out to the scene rather than taking cover."

She said one woman was using an outdoor telephone and completed her call as she watched the tornado heading toward her.

According to Joseph Hmden, social services director for Waukesha County, all of the people left homeless in the county were taken in by relatives.

Nordean Richard of the Waukesha office of the American Red Cross said her agency would set up an area service center at 8 a.m. Saturday to aid victims of the tornado. For the location of the center, storm victims may call 542-6672.

The Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI 28 Apr 1984
Blow-by-blow account of storm

As severe thunderstorms and tornados swept across Wisconsin Friday, the National Weather Service issued the following blow-by-blow account:

1 p.m. - Taylor County: One tree down.

2:12 p.m. - Portage County: Ping-Pong-ball-sized hail 3 miles southeast of Stevens Point. Possible tornado 10 miles south of Stevens Point.

2:18 p.m. - Dane County: Gusting winds 65 mph, 5 miles west of Madison.

2:20 p.m. - Marathon County: Pea-size hail in Schofield.

2:40 p.m. - Oneida County: Roof blown off and windows blown in, 8 miles west of Rhinelander.

2:52 p.m. - Vilas County: One roof off, lines down from tornado at St. Germain.

3 p.m. - Waupaca County: Tornado southeast of Waupaca moving northeast.

3:05 p.m. - Langlade County: Seven-mile path of tornado 7 miles north of Antigo.

3:10 p.m. - Oneida County: Several tornado touchdowns near LakeTomahawk, Sugar Camp and Three Lakes.

3:12 p.m. - Green Lake County: Berlin, tree-quarter-inch hail.

3:15 p.m. - Rock County: Marble-size hail near Clinton.

3:24 p.m. - Shawano County: Tornado one-half mile north of Highway 29.

3:30 p.m. - Menominee County: In Keshena, tornado destroys 12 homes.

3:33 p.m. - Oneida County: Minocqua suffers extensive damage from tornado.

3:34 p.m. - Winnebago County: Golf-ball-size hail north of Winneconne.

3:40 p.m. - Winnebago County: In the Town of Clayton, 1 person killed, 2 barns and 2 homes are destroyed.

4:14 to 4:21 p.m. - Jefferson County: Palmyra hit by one-half-inch hail.

4:15 p.m. - Shawano County: Tornado 12 miles east of Shawano moving northeast.

4:30 p.m. - Dodge County: Three miles northwest of Brownsville, a tornado touches down briefly.

4:35 p.m. - Outagamie County: Funnel cloud in Appleton.

4:39 p.m. - Waukesha County: In Wales, a tornado hits 2 miles east of Highways 67 and 18.

4:41 p.m. - Waukesha County: Wales tornado hits at Highways E and 83 near Interstate 94. One house destroyed near Wales; 1 person injured in basement.

4:45 p.m. - Waukesha County: At Waukesha Airport, tornado visible and listed.

4:46 p.m. - Waukesha County: Tornado dissipates 3 miles northwest of Highways 83 and 18.

4:48 p.m. - Waukesha County: In southeast corner of Waukesha, funnel cloud moving east.

4:49 p.m. - Waukesha County: Tornado just west of Pewaukee.

5 p.m. - Waukesha County: House destroyed at Thames and Pryn Rds.

5:20 p.m. - Washington County: One-half-inch hail in Slinger and West Bend.

5:48 p.m. - Waukesha County: At Calhoun Rd. and Capitol Dr., one-half-inch hail falls.

The Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI 28 April 1984
Tornado left trail of ruin for miles

By Peter Simonsen

Special to The Journal

St. Germain, Wis. - Jo Manpei says she'll put a memorial planter of flowers on the pine tree stump behind their trailer at the Lynn Ann Campground here.

Every summer since 1962, the tree that stood there had provided shade, beauty, a wonderful aroma and a place to tie one end of a clothesline. But the old tree, along with thousands in the campground and over a quarter of a million trees elsewhere in this resort area, was leveled a week ago Friday in a devastating tornado.

Manpei and her husband, Len, were not hurt in the tornado, but it was a close call. The flowers, she says, will serve as a reminder.

"Not that I want to remember what happened, but I want to remember what could happen in such a short time. I won't take another day for granted," she said.

The tornado mowed a 25-mile swath through Oneida and Vilas counties on the afternoon of April 27. Residents and officials are still struggling to assess the damage, complete the cleanup and obtain federal aid.

The twister killed one person, destroyed at least 75 homes and damaged another 175. Five campgrounds and resorts were in shambles, thousands of people were without electricity or telephones, and roads were jammed with trees.

In all, the tornado chewed up over 1,200 acres of land in the 25-mile-long gash that will take years to heal.

He'll continue

At the Lynn Ann Campground, owner Dave Bastian estimates his damage at $250,000. Fourteen of the camp's 20 acres were leveled, but Bastian has vowed to continue.

"There were two ways we could go," he said. "Grab the insurance check and sell out or stay and try to make it work again. We're staying."

The biggest cleanup awaits the Department of Natural Resources. Twenty miles of the 25-mile swath are in the Northern Highland State Forest, which the DNR manages.

DNR Forester Ralph Hewitt said that at least half of the timber's $500,000 value should be recovered through sale to timber contractors.

Figure rose

Early estimates put the damage in Oneida and Vilas counties at $9 million, but that figure has risen to $16 million by the end of last week and could go even higher, according to emergency government officials.

Gov. Earl, who toured the area Wednesday, said he had informally asked federal officials to declare the 25-mile strip a disaster area. A thorough study of the area this week will end with a more complete estimate of damages.

Despite the massive damage, only one person was killed, Ray Sloan Sr., of Fawn Lake. Most of the homes hit were unoccupied summer homes. Had the twister come on a Saturday, instead of Friday, or later in the season, officials said, the death toll could have been considerably higher.

The twister first touched down at 2:30 p.m. near Fawn Lake, west of Rhinelander. From there it plwed an almost straight row northeast 400 yards wide for the first 10 miles and then narrowed to 200 yards and went into a skipping pattern. It finally died out - 30 minutes later - near the Star Lake cemetery in central Vilas County.

Hardest hit was Oneida County, particularly the Lake Tomahawk area, where emergency government director Dennis Harper said damage would total $11 million.

In Vilas County, the majority of the damage was in the St. Germain area, according to Vilas emergency government director Larry Miller. He set a rough damage estimate of $4 million.

Both emergency directors say there could be an additional 50 damaged summer homes and cottages isolated in the woods that have yet to be discovered. "It's like a big jigsaw puzzle," Miller said. "We won't know for weeks the total damage."

Calling card

Vilas and Oneida County Highway Department crews and crews from towns along the twister's path will be busy for weeks clearing fallen trees and branches from roads. Cost of the road clean-up in the two counties is estimated at $400,000, but 75% of that would be reimbursed by the federal government if the area is declared a disaster.

Officials hope federal aid can be granted quickly so roadsides can be cleaned quickly and be as attractive as possible for the summer tourism season.

Many officials view trees as the area's calling card.

"A lot of people say they come here to fish, but they also like to enjoy the scenery along the road," says Bill Davies, director of the Vilas County Highway Department. "We have to have it as attractive as possible."

The Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, WI 6 May 1984