Wales, WI tornado Apr 1984


Town of Genesee - The tornado that roared through Waukesha County Friday "exploded into the lives of Tom Cassidy and his neighbors.

"It was a big funnel from the sky," said Cassidy, 18, of W299 S1170 Brandybrook Rd. "It was like everything exploded. There was stuff flying all over the place."

Cassidy, who was standing with family members outside his home at the time, spotted the tornado over a small hill, just south of his house.

"We thought it was going to hit our house," Cassidy said. "It was coming right at us.

"When we saw it, we ran straight to the garage and watched."

The tornado touched douwn only seconds later, Cassidy said, and a house and mobile home about 50 feet from the Cassidy home were destroyed.

"When it (the tornado) was gone, we ran across the street and tried to help the Stubbes," Cassidy said.

He was referring to Orville and Loretta Stubbe and their son, Russell.

Mrs. Stubbe was found dead in a field about 500 feet away from where her house trailer had been. There was no trace of the trailer.

Bother her husband and son were injured. Mr. Stubbe was in critical condition at Waukesha Memorial Hospital, and their son was listed as satisfactory.

The tornado touched down south of Wales near Highways D and E about 4:20 p.m. and continued about 6 miles in a northeasterly path before dissipating near Dover Bay subdivision in the Town of Delafield.

An additional 14 houses along the storm's six-mile long path received substantial damage. A preliminary estimate put damage at at least $500,000.

Waukesha County Sheriff's Department Lt. Robert Ireland, who surveyed the area in a Milwaukee County Medical Complex helicopter, said, "Some houses were hit and some were skipped over. Barns were hit with houses still intact."

Ireland said 10 homes were destroyed, "and I mean flattened," while 14 others were seriously damaged.

The home of former Milwaukee Brewer Gorman Thomas, which is in the Dover Bay subdivision, was untouched, but only 500 yards away the roof was torn off another home.

Waukesha County Coroner Donald Eggum said an injured Dover Bay subdivision resident told him he saw the tornado coming and ran down into his basement just seconds before the twister hit.

Eggum said the man saw the entire home blown away before he was thrown across the length of the basement, striking his head against a wall.

Cassidy said the tornado left a circle of debris, including shattered boards, farm equipment and clothing. Debris was scattered over an area of about 400 square yards. One tractor was thrown about 50 yards, Cassidy said.

Some of the debris hung from trees and utility lines.

Neighbors in the area formed small groups to try to gather cows that were freed when fences were destroyed.

Many of the residents in the area said they were in their basements when the tornado touched down.

A family from the Town of Genesee, where the tornado first touched down, said they saw a neighbor's mobile home explode.

"We had watched it (the tornado) come through Wales," said Karen Brendemuehl, who lives on a farm just outside Wales. "We saw it hit the earth and home. It was an explosion.

"It picked things up like a kid picks up toys - just tossed them," said Brendemuehl's husband, Jack. "It was just above our garage and lifted up. It went across a cornfield and it blew that house right into the air."

Mrs. Brendemuehl described the tornado as "big, round, black clouds."

Structural damage in the area was estimated at $500,000 by officials.

"But by the time you replace paintings and valuables and things like that it's going to be much higher," said Lt. Gary H. Paluszcyk. "We were very fortunate that the tornado wasn't a little farher west or a little farther east because it went between the Village of Wales and the City of Waukesha," he said. "I'm not saying it wasn't bad, but it could have been worse."

Paluszcyk said the storm affected an area 43 blocks wide by 45 blocks long south of Interstate 94 and on either side of Highway 18.

Fire and police departments from about a dozen communities converged on Kettle Moraine High School, where officials set up a command post.

Waukesha County Sheriff Raymond Klink called in all off-duty officers at 4:47 p.m. and asked all available squads from county police agencies to report to the Wales area.

Numerous power and telephone lines were reported down and communication was slow in some areas. Traffic from gawkers clogged area roads, especially near Highways 18 and G, authorities said.

Thirty Milwaukee County sheriff's deputies were called in to aid in search and night patrol duty.

The Wales Fire Department was inundated with rescue calls and had to request aid from neighboring fire departments.

Mr. Eggum, and his wife, Joyce, said they were at a bank near Highway SS and Interstate 94 when they looked up and saw a twister in the sky.

"It looked like a giant funnel," said Mrs. Eggum. "People didn't use their heads. I saw people tearing out to the scene rather than taking cover."

She said one woman was using an outdoor telephone and completed her call as she watched the tornado heading toward her.

According to Joseph Himden, social services director for Waukesha County, all of the people left homelss in the county were taken in by relatives.

Nordean Richard of the Waukesha office of the American Red Cross said her agency would set up an area service center at 8 a.m. Saturday to aid victims of the tornado. For the location of the ceter, storm victims may call 542-6672.

The Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI 28 Apr 1984

By Dan Kadlec

Wales - A Waukesha County sheriff's deputy on routine patrol near Wales notified headquarters about 4:45 p.m. Friday that he had sighted a tornado.

That was the first step in a chain of reaction that eventually brought about 200 volunteer and uniform emergency workers to the disaster area.

Deputy Ralph Wallendall was the first to see the tornado hit ground, said Lt. Gary Paluszcyk. Because the tornado was sighted by an officer, it was automatically confirmed and that expedited emergency procedure, he said.

Sheriff Raymond Klink then went into action, Paluszcyk said.

"He's the one who has to get everything going. A number of people were called into work. Some came before we could reach them," Paluszcyk said.

By 5:20 p.m., the first of the emergency workers from every police and fire department in the county and some from outside the county were arriving at Kettle Moraine High School, Paluszcyk said.

"I made the determination that our command post would best be served at the high school because of the parking and other facilities," he said.

The first community alert went out shortly after Wallendall reported the sighting. The Waukesha County dispatcher set into gear a mechanism that tripped warning sirens around the county and notified emergency agencies, Paluszcyk said.

An initial step was to get a team of sergeants and lieutenants into the area where the tornado was sighted to assess the damage, he said.

Meanwhile, the command post was filling with volunteers and police and fire personnel. Separate areas were secured for the American Red Cross, social service agencies, the press and a command area.

A place was also prepared for injured people, who were to be brought to the high school and treated.

Only two or three people were brought in, Paluszcyk said, and their injuries weren't serious.

The seriously injured were taken by ambulance directly to Waukesha Memorial Hospital.

The area of impact was identified with the help from a helicopter from the Milwaukee County Medical Complex. Police were stationed along roadways to restrict travel in those areas.

Police remained on guard all night at the 24 houses and 3 barns struck by the tornado "for security and to keep gawkers away," Paluszcyk said. "There still is threat of injury. We don't want people in there and suddenly the house comes down around their ears."

The Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI 28 Apr 1984

By Karen Robinson
Journal Consumer Affairs Reporter

The forces of nature have turned your dream home into kindling. Now you must regroup.

As several Waukesha County residents who found themselves in that situation Saturday surveyed the damage, it became apparent that the keys to successful recovery were good friends and a good insurance policy.

The residents who suffered property damage as a result of Friday's devastating tornado seemed fairly confident that they had both.

Walter Bandomir Jr., 37, had some friends with him Saturday as he sifted through the remains of the home that had been in his wife's family for more than three decades.

Friday's tornado undid the work of 35 years, and according to Bandomir, it took only about five seconds. Bandomir's home was a two-story building at W302-S3716 Brandy Brook Rd., Town of Genesee. It was situated on a hill and was surrounded by 35-year-old pine trees. Now, half of the structure is strewn about the nearby countryside, the chimney is on the living room floor, the pine trees have been uprooted and Bandomir is planning for the future - one step at a time.

"Once we realized there was no loss of life, that was step one, that was the important thing," said Bandomir, who was at home with his wife, three children, two full-grown German shepherds and seven puppies when the tornado tore through the home.

Appraisers from his insurance firm, American Family, had already come to the home Saturday and made arrangments to have the home boarded up. Bandomir felt confident his insurance would guard against any major financial loss. He added, "You never really know how good your insurance is until you need it."

Bandomir was not at all hesitant when asked whether he planned to rebuild.

"This is my paradise," he said. "This is my castle. This house had been in my family since 1949. There's no way I can really put a value on it."

Jerry Zipfel, 29, also was among the Waukesha County residents who were trying to put things back together Saturday. But for Zipfel's family, the financial loss will likely be great.

"No, I didn't have enough insurance," said Zipfel, whose right arm was injured when the tornado toppled the two-story home he rented near the intersection of Highways G and 18 in Wales.

"Who plans on a total loss? I had $10,000 insurance. I thought that would be enough, you know, if someone took my stereo or the TV. I never thought of nothing like this.

"Everything I had is lost."

Ed Rodden of the Town of Delafield has had his share of exposure to natural disasters.

As he supervised the removal of his personal effects from the devastated family home, he spoke of his faith in God, of the support he had received from his friends, and of his plans to rebuild his home - for the second time.

Rodden, who lives at W296-N316 Blodwin Dr., said the three-level, three-bedroom home burned down last September after the garage was struck by lightning. He moved back into the home in February after putting about $120,000 into rebuilding.

But Rodden, who lives with his wife, Janis, and their three young children, said that if he were not meant to live there, his home would have been the only one destroyed Friday.

He also noted that, by rights, he should have been at home with his children when the tornado struck. But because his car had broken down, and he was depending on his sister for transportation, he returned home later than normal Friday.

"The Lord God saved us both times," he said.

The Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, WI 29 Apr 1984