EF0 tornado hits Jellystone Campground

storm damage Cecil Park

By Audrey Posten

 

Around 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 29, a tornado touched down in Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park just north of the village of Bagley, destroying several campers and downing trees and power lines near the campground’s entrance, but injuring no one.

“It got super black,” said Jellystone manager Jamie Redman, who was alone in the campground store when the storm hit. “But I didn’t think anything of it. I was closing the windows when the trees just keeled over and there was debris everywhere.”

Bagley Fire Chief Fred White said the tornado was not strong, only classified as an EF0 with winds measuring 70-80 mph.

Since it was the middle of the week, Redman said few visitors were on site. Those who were at the campground were largely confined to the back half of the property. 

The Bagley and Bloomington Fire Departments were dispatched to the scene, along with the Bagley First Responders and the West Grant EMS. 

Because it was a campground, where people could possibly be trapped, White said the Jaws of Life were brought in as a precautionary measure.

Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative also assisted with the downed power lines. 

The destroyed campers belonged to seasonal guests, who, along with Jellystone staff and volunteers, started cleaning up that night, clearing the campground entrance, which had been completely blocked by fallen trees. 

The large Jellystone sign at the entrance was also damaged, with one side crumpled up like a piece of tin foil.

Clean-up continued the following morning, as dozens of people cut up downed trees and picked up other debris. 

Dianne Fortney and her husband have a seasonal camper at Jellystone. Since the couple’s camper sits in the back half of the grounds, Fortney said it was not damaged. Although her husband was on site when the tornado hit, she said a warning from a state trooper gave him and other guests time to seek shelter. 

“Tipping over like that will usually total them,” Fortney said as he gazed at one of the overturned campers. “There’s just no way to fix it.”

Jellystone re-opened over the weekend. Those with questions can contact the campground office at (608) 996-2201.

People with concerns about debris removal can contact Grant County Emergency Management at (608) 723-7171.

Microburst winds damage Prairie du Chien, leave debris

By Correne Martin

 

After several days of cool and rainy weather, a warm front moved through the area last Wednesday, May 29, allowing more humid air to build an unstable atmosphere during the afternoon and evening hours. That unstable environment led to an EFO-rated tornado and a line of severe thunderstorms erupting across the tri-states. 

The tornado touched down near Garnavillo, Iowa, during the late afternoon and crossed the Mississippi River before hitting Jellystone around 6 p.m. The tornado’s winds were estimated between 70 and 80 mph, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) of La Crosse. Campers were overturned and the front entrance to the campground was largely blocked with debris. 

The NWS said damaging wind, with gusts of 50 to 70 mph, and torrential rains led to microburst (or downburst) damage for the remainder of the region. In addition, heavy rains of up to four inches fell causing fairly widespread flooding and significant rises on area rivers.  

Across a wide area in the counties of Crawford, Grant and Clayton (Iowa), farm buildings and sheds were knocked over, trees were shredded and downed on top of homes and some vehicles, and other property was highly damaged, with an overwhelming amount of debris left in the storms’ paths.

Additional storms on May 30 led to more warnings and sporadic high wind reports.

The city of Prairie du Chien was one of the hardest hit on May 29. According to the NWS, the storm that hit Prairie du Chien is being classified as microburst winds. However, Crawford County Emergency Management Director Roger Martin believes it was something more than that.

“Perhaps it wasn’t a tornado according to (the NWS’) measurements, but I do believe it was a tornado,” he stated. “Many of the people I’ve talked to, who have seen the damage up close, agree with that.”

The NWS did not issue a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning for the city of Prairie du Chien on May 29, so the new CodeRed emergency system wasn’t sent out and the city didn’t sound its siren, according to Martin. 

“There was no fault or error with CodeRed,” he explained. “The NWS said the storm increased in severity so quickly that it wasn’t picked up in time for them to send a warning out.”

Martin noted that mostly minor wind damage and a few small rock slides were reported outside the city in other areas of Crawford County.

In Prairie du Chien, the areas near South Beaumont Road and South Wacouta Avenue as well as near South Dousman Street and South State Street were closed at times May 29-31 as city crews and volunteers feverishly worked on cleanup efforts.

 Mayor Dave Hemmer declared the city a disaster area Thursday morning, May 30.

“After a thorough review of the damage from last night’s storm, I am issuing a Declaration of Emergency to take effect immediately and be in effect until further notice. This will allow for the city to apply for federal and state assistance if needed. I have been very impressed with the response from local and county officials and employees, as well as the response I have seen personally of neighbors helping neighbors,” the mayor said in a statement.

The entire public works department was employed in response to the storm, along with Crawford County Emergency Management, Prairie du Chien fire and police departments and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department. The Crawford County Highway Department, Town of Eastman and local volunteers also assisted in cleaning up debris.

“We are estimating approximately $250,000 in individual damage for property owners in the city and close to $80,000 in debris cleanup costs for the city and outlying areas of the county,” Martin said. “We have trees down on buildings, fences, utility sheds and mostly roof damage.”

Terry Meyer, co-manager of public works in Prairie du Chien, said the city’s initial cleanup efforts involved “primarily removing trees from right-of-ways and those laying on roadways, as well as securing areas where we had power lines down.”

“Alliant Energy did a really good job with the power outages and getting people up and running as soon as possible,” Meyer added.

According to Fire Chief Harry Remz, an area near Overview Court was evacuated following the storm due to downed power lines and gas lines that had burst. After a brief period, the area was secured and residents were allowed back into their homes.

Overall, it was a hectic couple of days last week, yet there were no injuries and crews have taken care of most of the debris. 

The City of Prairie du Chien Public Works Department and Crawford County Emergency Management Office composed a list of volunteers last week in order to help property owners with storm damage recovery. Anyone still in need  of assistance is asked to contact emergency management at 326-0267.

 

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