Storms tear through Iron County; 3 campers hurt - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Storms tear through Iron County; 3 campers hurt

By Heather Sawaski

IRON COUNTY (WAOW) -- Mother Nature deals another blow. Pounding storms roll through the Northwoods Tuesday night, wreaking havoc on campers in the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage. The national weather service hasn't yet determined if it was, in fact, a tornado or just heavy winds. But whatever the storm, the damage is still devastating.

Campsite 24 is hidden away on an island in the middle of the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage. When disaster struck Tuesday night, a Green Bay couple in their early 60's took shelter in their tent. That's when a 70 foot oak tree went down right on top of them. Miraculously, they walked away with only minor injuries, but not everyone was so lucky. DNR leaders say 3 campers were hurt. One woman is in critical condition.

"It was an 8 mile swath that went right through the flowage property," explained Paul Bruggink, a facility and lands supervisor with the DNR. "It's about a mile wide and 8 miles long. It's right through the guts of the property where most of our campsites are."

There's 61 campsites total. DNR leaders worked with search and rescue teams throughout the day. But what's making the process difficult is all the campsites on the flowage are open to anyone, and they're only accessible by water. So officials have no idea just how many people were out during the storm.

"It's extremely difficult," Bruggink said. "The first thing we had to do is cut our way into the boat landing so we can get a boat on the water to go out and check the campsites. And our first priority was to do search and rescue of the campers that were out there."

Some campers were allowed back out to collect their belongings. No one wanted to speak with us on camera, but many seemed on edge.

"We wanted to look at the sights first," Bruggink commented. "Then we're bringing them back in to get their personal belongings and getting them out. There's just all kinds of debris in the water, trees are hanging on one another. It's a real mess and there are safety concerns out there right now."

Clean up will be a slow and steady process. DNR leaders say it will take weeks, if not months to get the campsites safe again for campers.

There was also storm damage in Vilas County. The National Weather Service is reporting several trees on homes and downed power lines. But, thankfully, no injuries.

Online Reporter: Heather Sawaski

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