Berlin, Bancroft, WI Tornadoes, Apr 1956

8 KILLED IN WISCONSIN TORNADOS.

BERLIN, BANCROFT ARE HARDEST HIT; 50 PERSONS HURT.

Milwaukee (AP) -- Tornadoes dropping out of humid spring skies killed eight persons, injured more than 50 others and laid a thin trail of devastation across central Wisconsin Tuesday.
The dusty fingers of the storms touched down on the Portage County hamlet of Bancroft, killing two persons in their crushed houses, then moved on the Berlin, where six died.
At Berlin, a city of nearly 5,000 residents on the Green Lake -- Waushara County line, an appalling casuality list was avoided by merest chance.
For instance, the twister crunched it way within a few yards of the high school where 400 youngsters were in classes. It demolilshed the Sands knitting mill, but 90 employes inside the shattered building escaped serious injury. At a rural school in nearby Waushara County, MRS. ALFRED WILEY shepherded more than a score of youngsters into the cellar moments before wind collapsed the building.
Locaton and identification of the dead took hours, with communication and power lines down all over the area and rescuers summoned by radio blocked at point after point by washed out roads and downed trees.
List Of Dead.
The dead at Bancroft:
MRS. SUSAN LORBIECKI, 70, of Bancroft.
GILBERT HOFSCHILD, Wisconsin Rapids.
The dead at Berlin, all residents of the area:
MRS. GEORGE POPELKA, 26.
DENNIS POPELKA, 8, Mrs. Popelka's son.
SUSAN SCHENDEL, 6.
MRS. ALEX MASHOCK, 45.
MRS. FRED MONTIE, 75.
MRS. LILLIAN MERRITT, 67.
In addition, MRS. LORBIECKI'S husband, NICK, and MRS. HOFSCHILD, were hospitalized at Stevens Point.
Berlin Memorial Hospital treated 50 persons for injuries and kept 13 persons overnight. Three of these were listed in critical condition. They were MRS. RALPH HOPKA, MRS. PETER GREGOR and 13-year-old JAMES ZERNZACH.
Meanwhile the county property damage mounted with the toll of splintered barns, vanished outbuildings and destroyed or damaged dwellings spreading out in all directions from the two points hardest hit.
The U.S. Weather Bureau here estimated 50 houses were destroyed.
Four houses and a dozen barns were shattered at Bancroft, where the wind also freakishly picked up three North Western Road box cars from the track and strewed them over a nearby field.
At Berlin, 15 houses were crushed and scattered in the streets along with big trees and utility poles. In addition to the Sands factory, an old milk processing plant was squashed.
The town of Aurora in Waushara County felt another blast, where an elaborate farmstead including house, two barns and outbuildings belonging to HENRY SCHMID was demolished. Two nearby barns were unroofed, and others in the Winnebago County town of Rushford were flattened on the ELLIS and PELZ farms.
Another series of smaller twisters was reported in western Wisconsin, where rivers swollen by melting snow posed an additional threat. Lowlands residents down-river from Lake Tomah, and householders at Pigeon Falls in Trempealeau County had flood problems as water swept through protective dams.
Waupaca County, also in the central area, saw scattered damage around Manawa. Nine barns were knocked down in a four-mile-long path from near Manawa to Symco. A general store in Symco was flattened, St. Mark's Lutheran Church was damaged, and the Green Valley school was demolished -- with MRS. WILEY'S pupils safe in the cellar.

Sheboygan Journal Wisconsin 1956-04-04