Various Towns in Northwest WI, Terrible Tornado, June 1958
TORNADO KILLS 28 IN WEST WISCONSIN.
MORE THAN 100 HURT IN DEVASTATED REGION.
Menomonie, Wis. (AP) -- A house-splintering tornado cut a 90-mile swath through four northwestern Wisconsin counties Wednesday night, leaving at least 28 persons dead and more than 100 injured in its wake of devastation.
Full fury of the funnel struck the small community of Colfax where 100 houses were destroyed or badly damaged. Eleven of the known dead were foundin Colfax ruins. Rescuers searched the wreckage for more bodies. At least 35 persons in the community of 1,000 were injured.
Only debris-littered basements remained in the northside residential district of Colfax. An open field nearby was a junkyard of wrecked cars, timbers from homes and shattered household goods.
Scores of farm homes and barns fell before the storm's power as it roared through rural areas around Menomonie and Chippewa Falls.
Check On Welfare.
Communications were knocked out and rescuers made farm-by-farm visits to check on welfare of residents.
After its destructive northside touch-down in Colfax, the twister skipped the business district to maul homes on the community's southside.
One relief worker said "just 10 minutes is all it took." The blowing rain that accompanied the blow came down the street like a wave, she said.
Gov. Vernon Thomson ordered three campanies of National Guardsmen to duty in the storm area for rescue and rehabilitation work.
Striking just after the supper hour, the twister caught many families unaware as their houses were flattened about them.
Lines Torn Out.
Communications and power lines were torn out and extent of the catastrophe was slow in becoming known. Officials used a makeshift network of police, sheriffs and civil defense radios to marshal doctors and nurses at hospitals in the area.
They also summoned ambulances and made appeals for station wagons and covered trucks to carry the injured to hospitals.
The funnel tore into Wisconsin at Woodville, just east of the St. Croix River, and cause destruction as far as Ludington, in Eau Claire County 80 miles to the east. It covered parts of St. Croix, Dunn, Eau Claire and Chippewa counties.
Use Torches, Headlights.
With electricity out, rescue parties used hand torches and headlights to probe the tangled wreckage for victims. Hospitals over the area were crammed with the injured, some reported critically hurt.
Nine identified dead and the body of an unidentified woman were taken from the ruins at Colfax, where police radio reports said half the buildings of that community of about 1,000 were smashed. Injuries also were reported heavy at Cedar Falls, another Dunn County community near here.
Three more were killed near Chippewa Falls, four died in this territory, two at Knapp and one near Wilson in St. Croix County.
"We felt the suction," said MELVIN HENDRICKSON, 58, of Colfax. "The wind was twisting things in the basement. Rain was pouring down on us. The only thing I saw was our water heater standing in the middle of the basement. Everything else was whirling around."
HENDRICKSON, his wife and three children sat huddled together tightly in the basement as the storm smashed their home.
"I looked up and the house wasn't there," he said. "Wood pieces were flying at us. Then the twister was gone and it was just rain."
Forty persons were admitted to Menomonie Memorial Hospital, were a staff meeting, convened just before the storm hit, found all 11 doctors on hand.
Other physicians were summoned here and to St. Joseph's Hospital at Chippewa Falls.
They came from Durand, Eau Claire, Osseo, Mondovi and Ladysmith.
Seventeen injured remained at the Menomonie hospital, four of them in critical condition. Two of the more seriously hurt were transferred by ambulance to hospitals in Minnesota's Twin Cities, 75 miles west of Menomonie.
The other 21 were treated and released.
At Chippewa Falls, 45 were received with 26 still under treatment.
Scores of the homeless were taken into homes of relatives and neighbors.
Ambulances and police cars rushed whole blood to the hospitals from the Twin Cities.
The tornado smashed into Wisconsin after spawning two tornadoes across north central Minnesota. A score of farms were ravaged, hundreds of trees toppled and lake cottages damaged but there were reports of only minor casualties.
As the storm coursed its way across the two states, Air Force radar installations measured the lowering cloud that spewed the series of funnels at about 15 miles in diameter.
An earlier tornado hit in the same general Wisconsin area May 18 and did heavy damage but there were no fatalities.
LIST OF DEAD IN DEVASTATING STATE TORNADO.
Menomonie, Wis. (AP) -- The dead in Wednesday night's tornado that struck northwestern Wisconsin, compiled from various sources:
MRS. LILLIAN BUTEK, Chippewa Falls; her daughter IRENE, 10, and son JOHN, JR., 14.
LANNY FJELSTAD, 16, Colfax, and his uncle, SPENCER FJELSTAD, 38.
HARRY FORD, Knapp.
MRS. CORA GERBER, 45, Colfax.
GEORGE HOUSE, 65, Menomonie.
MR. and MRS. ROY LARSON, Menomonie, and their son, EARL, 3.
ERLING LUNN, Colfax, and his son, LEON, 3.
VERNON MEINDEL, 40, Bloomer.
GEORGE NELSON, 70, Colfax.
ARTHUR PETERSON, 71, Wilson.
RICHARD PRESNELL, 27, Bloomer.
ARTHUR QUEVILLON, 52, Colfax.
MRS. CARL RAUSCH, Hutchinson, Minn.
MRS. TED SLAGA, Colfax.
WILLIAM WAGNER, 50, Colfax.
MRS. ARNOLD SCHNEIDER, 40, Chippewa Falls.
An unidentified truck driver, Colfax.
MRS. ALAN MUSIL, Rice Lake.
HENRY HUTH, 70, and his son CLARENCE, 38, Boyd.
ROGER LLEWLYN, 14, Stanley.
MRS. JOHN LATO, Thorp.
Oshkosh Daily Northwestern Wisconsin 1958-06-05