A businessman and philanthropist has put up $1 million toward tornado recovery efforts in the northwestern Wisconsin area where he was born and raised.
Officials say the deadly tornado that struck Barron County on May 16 left behind $10 million in damage and traveled an especially long distance.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday announced the donation by Foster Friess as a challenge grant established with Red Cedar Church in Friess’ native Rice Lake.
The 77-year-old Friess, an investment manager who lives in Wyoming and has been active in Republican politics, said the grant will be used to double every donation sent to the church.
“Please dig deeply to help these people, who in less than an hour’s time, life was changed so dramatically for them,” said Friess, who traveled to northwestern Wisconsin and viewed the damage.
“Many of them have nothing but the clothes on their back,” he continued in a statement released through the governor’s office.
“Their car is damaged, their home gone, including all the contents blown into the next county.”
In its initial estimates, the Barron County Sheriff’s Office said the tornado and accompanying stormy weather killed a man, injured roughly two dozen people and damaged 231 homes and four commercial properties across the county.
The $10 million damage estimate includes $5 million to personal property and the rest to commercial property.
On Tuesday night, the National Weather Service office in Milwaukee said the tornado registered peak winds of 140 miles per hour, ranking it at an F3 strength on a scale of 0 to 5.
The tornado “was on the ground for an incredible 83 miles,” the statement continued, “[and] the distance appears to be the longest in Wisconsin for the modern era.”
On May 10, 1950, an F4 twister traveled 80 miles across Burnett, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties, the weather service noted.