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Severe weather damages trees, buildings in Wisconsin

July 20, 2019
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An uprooted tree lies on its side next to a home near Turtle Lake, Wis., on Saturday morning, July 20, 2019. Severe storms moved through the western part of the state, also causing power outages. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
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An uprooted tree lies on its side next to a home near Turtle Lake, Wis., on Saturday morning, July 20, 2019. Severe storms moved through the western part of the state, also causing power outages. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Heavy rain and fierce winds downed trees, damaged buildings and left tens of thousands of people without power in Wisconsin on Saturday as a heat warning remained in effect for parts of the state.

Some Wisconsin residents were using chain saws to clean up from Friday’s round of storms, while others braced for more severe weather.

“I was so scared, I really thought I was going to die,” Lisa Gast told WLUK-TV. Gast, of Mountain, was driving through Friday’s storm on her way home from work. “I wanted to get home to my family.”

Lionel Longsine of Mountain was more concerned about getting a generator for his wife, who was released from the hospital days ago and can’t breathe on her own without power.

“She’s got cancer in her right lung,” he told WLUK. Trees in the roadway made him feel stuck. “We’re trapped in our town and we can’t get out.”

The National Weather Service said Friday’s storm produced at least one tornado. Warning coordination meteorologist Jeff Last told The Associated Press that an EF1 tornado touched down in Marathon County at about 8:30 p.m. on Friday, demolishing a barn and damaging a couple hundred trees.

The same storm produced straight-line winds in Marinette and Langlade counties and Last said the National Weather Service has received reports of possibly thousands of trees down in heavily forested northeastern Wisconsin.

Storm survey teams were working to confirm whether other storm damage may have been caused by tornados, Last said. There were no additional confirmed tornados at midday Saturday.

As of Saturday afternoon, about 140,000 Wisconsin customers were without power, according to Wisconsin Public Service, We Energies and Alliant Energy. Information from We Energies’ website shows the bulk of those — more than 69,000 customers — were in the Green Bay area.

The power outages affected about 6,000 We Energy customers in southeastern Wisconsin, including the Milwaukee area, which was under an excessive heat warning until Saturday night.

The cities of Milwaukee and Waukesha posted a list of cooling sites online, where residents could go to stay safe in the intense heat.

Meanwhile, other residents were cleaning up after Friday’s storms snapped trees in half.

Mike Kapocius told the AP he was at his lake home in Elcho, about 100 miles (160.93 kilometers) north of Appleton, on Friday when winds began to pick up and “we were seeing the trees move in directions they’ve never moved before.” After a tree limb hit his patio door, his group took cover downstairs.

They emerged to see what Kapocius described as widespread devastation. Multiple trees had been snapped and roads were impassable. On Saturday, he and a group of guys used chain saws to clear the roads enough so emergency vehicles could get through.

“The devastation is just brutal,” he said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries directly attributed to the storms. But the Trempealeau County Sheriff’s Office said weather was believed to be a factor in a fatal crash in Whitehall. That crash is still being investigated.

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