Wood Co. Tornado: One Year Later - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Wood Co. Tornado: One Year Later


On May 22 of  2011, five tornadoes ripped through Wisconsin. This strong storm brought new stories to the forefront around Wood County.

During the calm before last year's tornado, Jhae Larson and his family took cover.

"Came back upstairs and looked in the backyard and my garage roof and most of my garage was in my backyard," said Larson. "Pretty much a big mess."

As Larson looked around, he heard his neighbor screaming for help. He said he hopped the fence to her rescue.

"I was pretty nervous when I saw that but luckily first responders were here quick and everything worked out," said Larson.

Larson's children said their father saved the day.

"He's always been my hero," said Larson's son, Jake.

"Even before this, he has done so much for us," said Larson's daughter, Kylie. "We have always looked up to him."

After a hectic few months, Larson said things are looking up. His neighbor didn't want to speak with us on camera, but Larson said she's doing better now. And despite the mess the tornado left behind, Larson said the experience brought the community together.

"Neighbors jumping in and helping, family, friends," said Larson. "We had an outpour of people that came out and helped us clean up."

Just a few miles away, the tornado ripped through this campsite near Nekoosa. With winds upwards of 100 miles per hour, more than 400 trees were ripped from their roots.

On the night of the storm, Norma Donovan was setting up camp in her trailer.

"When it came, it was just a white out," said Donovan. "You couldn't see anything. It was just movement."

Winds whipped through the Deer Trail Park Campground -- sending trees crashing through campers -- as hail rained down all around. The next day, when Newsline 9 spoke with people who witnessed the storm, they told tales of the wicked weather.

"We were in my camper and saw that I now have a skylight that used to be a roof," said Lisa Gilbertson, who lived in the campground.

One year later, campground workers said it's still hard to believe what happened that night.

"Didn't really know it was a tornado at the time," said Maxwell Brotz, who works at the campground. "It was just so dark. When everything was over, I walked out and trees were down everywhere and that was it."

A daunting task to tackle, they said it took hundreds of people with chainsaws to take care of all the toppled trees.

"It's starting to shape up," said Brotz. "We got all the trees cleaned up and we're growing grass so it looks good, I think. It's just a little more sunny than it used to be."

The memory of last year's storms lingers.

"It does stick to you," said Larson. "It's kind of yellow out and you kind of look back like yeah that reminds me of last year. How yellow and calm it got and then all of the sudden the black clouds roll in and everything picks up."

But they look forward with new hope for the future.

"Took pretty much all summer to get everything cleaned up and hopefully it stays that way," said Larson.

People who live in Wood County can find out more about emergency procedures in the area by clicking on this link.

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