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BREAKING - Linn tornado aftermath

Picking up the pieces

November 23, 2010 | 11:34 AM
Linn — Mother Nature's wrecking ball smashed into four houses and three barns Monday afternoon. Some livestock also were killed.

After two tornadoes roared through Southeastern Wisconsin, about 4,000 were without power. But on Tuesday, some locals continue to pick up the pieces.

At about 11:20 a.m., Linn Police Chief Dennis Wisniewski said Zenda remained in a blackout. Wisniewski said the Linn Town Hall offices — including his Police Department — are running off a generator until Alliant Energy restores electricity, which was expected to occur by 2 p.m.

The damage remains. During a telephone interview Tuesday, a dispatcher announced over Wisniewski's radio a black hawk helicopter is flying over Linn Township Tuesday at about 1 p.m. to survey the damage.

Wisniewski said what began Monday at about 3:09 p.m. was one of the worst storms he ever witnessed.

"I was on Highway B and Academy Road when it came through," Wisniewski said. "It was just wind and a lot of rain. Visibility was almost next to nothing."

He wasn't far from one of the storm-battered properties, which is owned by Kelly and Deb Elliot, Highway B. Other property owners reeling after Monday's storm are Dick and Bonnie Cornue, Lakeville Road; and Scott Sherman, Swamp Angel Road. Bonnie Cornue is president of the Reek School Board.

Wisniewski said after Walworth County Dispatch alerted authorities to the tornado warning, he left his office as the sirens blared to obtain a "good vantage point" of the storm.

"Actually, I was so intent on seeing what was going on, so I'd be able to tell dispatch and they would be able to relay that to the other units ... I was basically just watching," Wisniewski said.

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Several agencies assisted town of Linn police, fire and EMS personnel, including the Walworth County Sheriff's Department and Emergency Government, Wisconsin State Patrol and Wisconsin Emergency Operations.

A command center was established at the Linn Fire Station on Hillside Road.

"Once we had everything under control and the roads blocked off, once we had all the damaged properties secure with officers from our department, state patrol and the county, we left around 10 p.m.," Wisniewski said.

He said Walworth County Sheriff David Graves and Undersheriff Kurt Picknell remained at the center throughout the ordeal.

Wisniewski said despite being caught in what's sure to be referred to as one of the worst township storms in recent memory, he didn't have time for fear.

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"When you get in a situation like this, obviously public safety is No. 1 — trying to get things organized, to make sure nobody is (hurt), that their property isn't damaged any further, coordinating with other agencies," he said. "I really didn't have time to think of anything else. The people are priority."

Authorities haven't reported any injuries or human casualties caused by Monday's storm.

Tuesday morning, workers — including some from the Walworth County Public Works Department — began clearing fallen tree limbs near Highway B. Several vehicles passed slowly through the one-lane work zone.

Wisniewski said so far, onlookers are being orderly.

"There are people out there who would like to help, but I would say because of the coordination between the agencies involved, everything is working out, which has a lot to do with the calmness of the public," he said.

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