At least one person was killed and 25 were injured when a tornado tore through a mobile home park near Chetek, Wis., a town of 2,200 people about 110 miles northeast of Minneapolis.
A team of deputies from the Barron County Sheriff’s Department was still going door to door in the Prairie Lake Estates trailer park north of Chetek at 10:30 p.m., checking on residents.
Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told WCCO-TV, Channel 4, that he saw “total destruction,” unlike any he’s seen in his 20-plus years of law enforcement.
“There were six to eight trailers in a row, now there’s nothing there but debris,” the sheriff said.
Kyle Kriegl with the Red Cross Northwest Wisconsin chapter said the Red Cross set up a shelter at Mosaic Telecom in Cameron, Wis., where people made homeless by the storm could spend the night.
People were still coming in at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, and he didn’t yet have an accurate number of how many needed help.
In addition to the touchdown near Chetek, Kriegl said, there was a second touchdown in Rusk County, Wis., near Conrath, a hamlet of fewer than 100 people. He said he was not aware of any injuries in that touchdown. But the Red Cross did have a reception center set up in nearby Ladysmith, Wis., to provide assistance to anyone who needed it.
Authorities said rescue workers planned to be at the trailer park near Chetek all night. Gas and electricity had to be shut down for safety, so many of the responders were working in the dark.
"It's a mess," Fitzgerald told the Leader-Telegram of Eau Claire. "It's pretty bad. We have at least one deceased so far and we're still in a search pattern."
First responders could hear people yelling for help when they arrived, the sheriff said, adding that at least one child was among the injured.
Chetek Mayor Jeff Martin told KSTP-TV, Channel 5, that numerous emergency vehicles went to the trailer park on Hwy. 53. He estimated the park had around 50 homes.
Devin Feuerhelm told KMSP-TV that his sister, Lenna Samuelson, lives in the park with her two daughters, Ashley and Brenna. He said her sister also had her 2-month-old grandson, Nolan, in the home when the storm hit, and they had nowhere to go but the bathtub.
Amazingly, Nolan escaped with just a couple of scratches, he said. Samuelson's daughters suffered minor injuries, and the mother suffered a gash on her head, but he said all are expected to be fine.
While their home was flattened, the SUV next to it was untouched.
Martin also said several turkey barns in the area were hit hard.
The National Weather Service said spotters reported a tornado 4 miles northwest of Chetek at 5:35 p.m., and another 5 miles west-southwest of Weyerhaeuser at 6:15 p.m.
The tornadoes were part of a system of severe storms that rolled through the northern Chippewa Valley on Tuesday evening.
The severe storm that hit the Chetek area started to develop about two hours earlier in the St. Paul area, according to meteorologist Mike Griesinger of the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.
“This was a supercell that developed, a discreet storm,” he said Tuesday night. “It was around 3:30 p.m. that we started seeing signs of a thunderstorm. It quickly gained strength over Washington County.”
The Associated Press and the Leader-Telegram of Eau Claire, Wis., contributed to this report.