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Rusk County News

WLDY-WJBL NEWS 5-22-17

Volunteers who want to help with the storm damage in Rusk County, need to report to the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) located in the Law Enforcement Center in the Rusk County Courthouse.

Conrath (WQOW) — The damage from the deadly tornado that swept through Barron County and Rusk County is costly and wide-spread. News 18 spoke with a couple from Conrath on Sunday to find out how they’re holding up after losing their home and almost everything inside of it.

“I seen it hit the neighbors place and I just come running in the house,” John Polak said. “I grabbed Eileen and told her, ‘Get in the basement. We better do it, like, right now.'”

John and Eileen Polak said they still haven’t been able to wrap their heads around the experience.

After taking cover on Tuesday, John said it took about five horrifying minutes for the tornado to pass by them. But after it did, the panic wasn’t over because the debris from what was once their house was now trapping them in the basement.

Eileen’s son called the fire department to get them help, but it took some time before crews arrived. John said that’s because crews kept driving past them, looking for a house that was no longer standing. He said they actually got out of the basement themselves by the time the fire department arrived.

The Polaks said they’re thankful they weren’t hurt, and now are looking to the future. Though they admit, they’re not sure what it holds for them just yet.

“Do you wanna come back to this spot and have that hanging there,” Eileen Polak asked. “Or do you go somewhere else?”

For as stressful as the situation has been, the Polaks told News 18 people’s support has kept them hanging on. From family members and friends coming from out of state. To local companies and an extremely selfless group of teens.

“The Ladysmith High School senior class, on Thursday, was to go to Valley Fair for their senior trip and they gave that senior trip up to come out here and help,” Eileen said tearfully. “So I mean, from the bottom of my heart, that meant a lot.”

Even though they just lost everything, the Polaks said they’re eager to get back on their feet so they can start helping others get back on theirs.

Barron County (WQOW) — The Barron County Sheriff’s Department released initial damage estimates Sunday, after a deadly tornado passed through the area days before. They said the storm damaged 231 homes and four commercial properties across the county, though those number are likely to change as officials continue to gather information.

They said the storm caused about $10 million in damages; $5 million in personal property, the other half in commercial property. Though that amount does not include any tree damage, which they said, is heavily damaged.

Families and volunteers continued cleaning up Sunday. People looking to help were encouraged to register at the volunteer reception center in Cameron from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. But because authorities know the need for assistance across the county will last long after the VRC closes Sunday, the Sheriff’s Department and Barron County Health & Human Services will continue to lead the recovery effort.

In a press release, they said people can contact the Sheriff’s Department at (715) 537-3106, or call 911, for any property or traffic safety concerns. Health & Human Services will continue to monitor 211 to provide assistance to victims. Though people with specific needs, like economic support or trauma services, should call (715) 537-5691.

The Chetek Chamber of Commerce has also been providing assistance to residents and said they’ll continue their services as long as they have volunteers and a need. They’re looking for people to do physical labor like raking and excavating, for food preparation and delivery, office work, brush site assistance and more.

Volunteers can follow the updated posts on the Chamber’s website to find out how they can help. Residents can also to submit a request for aid on the website and a team of volunteers will follow up with them. They can also call (715) 924-4440.

In the release, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald and Human & Health Services Director Stacey Frolik thanked the hundreds of volunteers, businesses and organizations that have assisted in the recovery process. They also thanked the county staff that has been working around the clock on behalf of the citizens of Barron County.

Wisconsin (WQOW) – According to the National Weather Service/Twin Cities, a powerful thunderstorm tracked across northwest Wisconsin during the early evening of Tuesday, May 16th, 2017. The storm produced a strong, long track tornado that first developed over southeastern Polk County, in the area of Clear Lake, then tracked mostly eastward across southern Barron and southern Rusk counties, possibly into Price County.

The hardest hit area was just north of Chetek, where high-end EF2 damage was found. The rest of the path ranged from EF0 to EF1 with mainly tree damage, and mostly minor structural damage.

The National Weather Service also said due to such a long possible path length of greater than 60 miles, they are awaiting additional information, possibly in the form of aerial survey results before finalizing the width and length. They said it is possible more than one tornado occurred if a break in the path is found. In that case, the length would be shorter than 60 miles.

The tornado resulted in one fatality and dozens of injuries along with damage estimated at $10 million.

In other news in Rusk County over the weekend, the Barron County Sheriff’s Office Friday afternoon at about 4:15, requested a Rusk County deputy check an address on County Highway F, Chetek, for a male subject who was reportedly in possession of a Taurus .357 handgun. According to the police log, he is believed to be at his mothers residence. After an investigation, a Rusk County deputy advised they spoke with the grandfather and that the subject had left about a half hour before. Shortly after 5 PM, Barron County advised they have the subject in custody.

Saturday shortly before 6 PM, a Rusk County deputy reported that he was out with a vehicle in the trees on Cross Road, Tony. According to the report, the County requested the Ladysmith Fire Department and Sheldon Ambulance respond to the scene. A subject was transported by ambulance to RCMH with unknown injuries. No other information was available.

A Rusk County deputy made a traffic stop Sunday morning at about 12:40 on County Highway D., Chetek near County Highway F. A field sobriety was performed on the driver. The driver was taken into custody for OWI and after getting a warrant was taken to RCMH for a blood draw. The subject was then transported to the Rusk County jail.

This (Monday) morning just before 1 AM, a subject advised that there was smoke in there kitchen at Kwik Trip and the caller thinks it might be electrical, The Ladysmith Fire Department and Ladysmith Police responded to the scene. According to the report, smoke was in the kitchen, but no flames but could not locate the source. Firemen were on the scene for about an hour.

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