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Volunteers Help Out in Wisconsin

June 20, 2001

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SIREN, Wis. (AP) _ Volunteers are converging on this northwestern Wisconsin village to help clean up after a tornado ripped more than 100 homes apart and killed three people.

``People have come from everywhere to help,″ said Tom Cole, 25, who lives a half-mile outside Siren and volunteered to cut down trees that were broken and twisted by Monday’s storm. ``A little town like this can’t do it alone.″

More than 400 volunteers had registered by Wednesday. ``Today we’re hoping for as many people as we can that have chain saws,″ county emergency director Roberta Sichta said Wednesday.

The tornado struck without any warning siren being sounded, because the siren had been knocked out by lightning in a recent storm, authorities said.

The tornado flattened or damaged 120 homes in Siren, a village of 900 people about 65 miles northeast of the Twin Cities. Sixteen people were injured; all but one had been released from a hospital Tuesday.

``There is no words to describe what you feel right now,″ Julie Melton, whose father died in the storm, said as she fought back tears.

Village President Larry Blahauvietz said the storm damaged most of the new businesses developed over the past three years, including two hotels, a theater, four-store mall and ice arena.

``It’s sad to see all these businesses destroyed, but we anticipate a lot of them will rebuild,″ he said.

``It’s catastrophic,″ said Judi Radel-Trigg, owner of Timberland Gifts & Goods, as she boxed up merchandise to move from her roofless store.

Gov. Scott McCallum toured the storm-damaged area Tuesday and declared a state of emergency in Burnett County and adjoining Washburn County, the first step in seeking a federal disaster declaration.

``I think people are calming down. Everybody’s efforts are focused on cleaning up,″ said Dennis Quinn, a firefighter from the nearby village of Webster.


On the Net:

National Weather Service: http://www.crh.noaa.gov

Wisconsin Emergency Management: http://badger.state.wi.us/agencies/dma/wem/index.htm

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