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Crews Continue Work To Restore Power In Wake Of Weekend Storms

Storm Aftermath Leaves Some Without Electricity For 48 Hours

storm damage
A large white pine was toppled by strong winds at this rental home on the corner of Barron’s East Division Street and Sainte Marie Street. Parts of the tree damaged a company truck driven by the renter, who declined to be interviewed. Branches from the pine also broke through the home’s garage. Rich Kremer/WPR

More than 60,000 people in Wisconsin were still without power Monday morning in the wake of strong storms Friday and Saturday night across the state. That number was falling as crews continued work to restore power.

Matt Cullin, a spokesman for the WEC Energy Group, said that as of 4 p.m. Monday, WPS and We Energies crews had restored service to more than 230,000 customers in central and eastern Wisconsin. WPS said on Twitter that its crews had replaced 100 transformers, 75 poles and strung 125,000 feet of electrical wire. We Energies wrote that power would be restored to 95 percent of its affected customers by the end of Monday.

But in places across the state, some residents were nearing 48 hours without electricity and some rural residents did not expect it to be restored Monday. WPS said 95 percent of customers able to receive service would have it by the end of the day Tuesday. Some customers with severe damage to their homes may need building repairs before electricity can be restored.

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The storms were among the most intense in Wisconsin in decades. Cullin said they not only knocked out power in Wisconsin but also crossed over Lake Michigan, doing further damage and knocking out power in Michigan as well. That gives a sense of the “ferocity and intensity” of the storms, Cullin said.

Among Wisconsin cities, Wisconsin Rapids was hit especially hard.

“It looks like a war zone throughout the city, with trees everywhere on every block in every neighborhood that are affected,” said Mayor Zach Vruwink.

Wisconsin Rapids established emergency centers and Vruwink said officials made welfare checks on vulnerable residents who might need access to power, for example to charge medical devices.

He said the community has also come together in its response.

“It’s actually been encouraging to see so many people walking around their neighborhood seeing if people need help with things,” Vruwink said.

Friends even helped the mayor, who said a tree had landed on his own house and knocked a rafter right through a bedroom. And the city all weekend and into Monday had been abuzz with chainsaws, he said.

Vruwink said 28 municipalities had answered calls for mutual aid to assist Wisconsin Rapids, and that their efforts were speeding cleanup and recovery efforts.

Officials were investigating whether storms were responsible for several weekend deaths. And the storm response was dangerous for some, too. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin reported that one man died and another was injured clearing debris in Oconto County. Vruwink said a utility worker in Wisconsin Rapids had been seriously injured in cleanup efforts.

But for others in Wisconsin, cleanup efforts felt fairly prosaic. Eugene Cincera’s home was in the path of a tornado that touched down Friday from the towns of Knowlton to Shantytown. On Sunday afternoon, Cincera told WPR he felt fortunate that damage on his property was to trees and not his house.

“I’ve got four chainsaws,” Cincera said. “I’ve got a tractor. I’ve got a backhoe. … I’m retired. Do I want to be doing this? No. Is it a big deal? No.”