WI assesses damages

The damage assessment continues Monday in southern Wisconsin after deadly tornadoes.

BY HEATHER MOYER | STOUGHTON, Wisc. | August 22, 2005

"A lot of cleanup has taken place, but there's still more to do."

—Lori Olson

The damage assessment continues Monday in southern Wisconsin after deadly tornadoes roared through Thursday night.

A tornado killed one person, injured 18 others, and destroyed more than 60 homes in the city of Stoughton. Another 37 suffered major damage and 50 saw minor damage, according to the Dane County Office of Emergency Management. For Lori Olson of the United Methodist Church of Stoughton, the tornado was something she had never experienced before in her life.

"I'd heard reports on the TV about a tornado close by," she said, explaining her Thursday evening at home with her daughter and one of her daughter's friends. "Then I heard a weird noise and looked outside, and it was in a field across the street. I yelled for them to get in the closet, and we held on to each other and prayed."

Olson said she was lucky, she only had a few trees down in her yard. But down the street the rest of the neighborhood was gone.

The United Methodist Church of Stoughton is providing food to families in need, said Olson, who serves as the church's administrative assistant. They also took a collection for the affected families. Later this week they will be housing volunteer groups from out of town. The outpouring of support from both within the community and from beyond is overwhelming, she added, noting that the church's phone rang off the hook Friday morning with calls from other Methodist churches in the area who wanted to help.

Volunteers swarmed into town over the weekend to help with debris cleanup, too.

Representatives from the local Methodist conference were in town over the weekend as well to assess needs in the community, Olson added. "A lot of cleanup has taken place, but there's still more to do," she said. "We'll be working more with the conference and are waiting to hear what our next move will be."

In the meantime, the prayer team from the church has been activated and is available to anyone, said Olson. She said the sanctuary is open all day as people need it. Now that the initial glut of volunteers has passed, Olson thinks the devastation will start to sink in for the affected families.

"I imagine today that when a lot of volunteers won't be around and people have to go back to work, the reality is going to set in more. All of the activity is going to quiet down and people are left more on their own to clean up."

The cleanup will continue in the Richland County community of Viola as well. Another tornado destroyed sixhomes there, according to Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM). Another 26 suffered major damage and 95 saw minor damage. WEM is reporting that the majority of the affected families have insurance.

In LaFayette County, the City of Darlington, Villages of Gratiot and South Wayne, and the Towns of Wayne, Gratiot, Shullsburg, and Benton all saw damage. WEM reports that the residential damage is 10 homes with major damage and 20 homes with minor damage.

The National Weather Service confirmed that a record 26 tornadoes touched down across southern Wisconsin August 18. Minor tornado damange was also reported in Adams, Grant, Jefferson, Sauk, and Vernon counties.

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