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NWS: Ripon damage caused by strong straight-line winds

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 10:24 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2021 at 12:45 PM CDT
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RIPON, Wis. (WBAY) - UPDATE 7/30:

Ripon’s city administrator says power has been restored to most customers after this week’s severe storms.

As of 9 a.m. Friday, about 550 Alliant Energy customers are without power in the city. Crews are working continuously to repair the damages and restore power to the remaining customers.

The National Weather Service out of Milwaukee says preliminary findings show damage was caused by “strong straight-line winds” between 70-75 mph.

City crews have been out since 5 a.m. Friday clearing debris from roads. A handful of streets are closed due to downed trees and power lines. The city says the Department of Public Works is working to clear these areas:

*Houston Street (between E. Fond du Lac St and Seward Street)

*Jackson Street at Stanton Street

*Locust Street (between State St and Congress St.)

*E. Sullivan Street (between St. Wenceslaus St. and Commercial St.)

*The 700 block of Lincoln St. and 900 block of Woodside St. are open to traffic but use caution when traveling these roads due to low hanging branches.

Ripon Police are warning residents to be alert for scammers looking to take advantage of the situation. Some residents have been targeted by scammers pretending to be with a power company. These scammers are demanding payment and threatening disconnection. Do not pay them. If you have questions about your service, contact Alliant Energy.

Police say contractors have arrived in Ripon and are making offers to residents regarding repairs. Always get an estimate and check insurance policies and references.

At about midnight Wednesday, a severe thunderstorm with “significant” straight-line winds came through Ripon. Trees and limbs tangled in utility lines left a mangled mess on streets and in yards.

The Ripon compost site is open all weekend. People can drop off debris and yard waste free of charge.

“Hauling it to the compost site versus putting it on the curb is extremely helpful to our Department of Public Works as they continue to be very busy with storm clean up,” says City Administrator Adam Sonntag.

Ripon city officials held news conferences Thursday to warn people about the dangers of going out in areas where there are active downed power lines and debris in the roads. Emergency Management is investigating why tornado sirens failed to activate when the National Weather Service issued tornado warnings in the county.

Gov. Tony Evers has declared a state of emergency following the storms. That directs state agencies to help and allows the Wisconsin National Guard to be called to active duty.

The National Weather Service also surveyed storm damage in southwest Winnebago County. Results indicate widespread straight-line wind damage from near Omro and Eureka, south to Rush Lake and Pickett.

INITIAL REPORT

The good news for nearly 7,800 residents of Ripon Thursday is that the power was starting to come back on.

Alliant Energy has 50 crews working in the city while residents and city workers are cleaning up the mess the storm left behind overnight.

With power out throughout much of the city, the true scope of the damage wasn’t seen until until daybreak.

“It was just like, lightning like strobe lights,” Mary Maher described the storm. “You could hear the wind beginning to whip up. We looked out the window, then the power went out so everything was dark, so the only thing you could see was when the lightning would flash, you would see, and that’s when we saw the trees had come down in our yard.”

Trees and limbs tangled in utility lines left a mangled mess on streets and in yards.

Neighboring Green Lake County sent highways department crews to help with the cleanup.

“We are helping the city of Ripon clear the roads, driveways, getting the stuff off the road. We got sweepers here, seven dump trucks and six guys running chainsaws,” Green Lake County Highway Superintendent Jason Franke said.

There was a business in the downtown district that lost some windows as a result of the storm. An assisted living facility lost part of its roof and a lot of shingles.

“The caregivers were absolutely terrific. They handled everything really well. The residents, they kept the residents safe. They made sure they got to the interior of the building, away from windows,” Prairie Place Assisted Living CEO Jeremiah Grothe praised.

As cleanup continues, residents realize how lucky they all are that no one in the city was injured during the storm, and they’re grateful for each other as everyone pitches in on cleanup.

“People just chip in, and we don’t even know their names and they don’t know our names and they just show up,” Paula Rothman said. “Nobody asks any questions. They just grab a rake or a pitchfork.”

City crews will be back at the job at hand Friday morning at 5.

The City of Ripon is warning residents about dangerous conditions in the aftermath of a major storm that hit the city Wednesday night.

At about midnight, a severe thunderstorm with “significant” straight-line winds came through Ripon.

Gov. Tony Evers has declared a state of emergency following the storms. That directs state agencies to help and allows the Wisconsin National Guard to be called to active duty.

Ripon city officials held news conferences Thursday to warn people about the dangers of going out in areas where there are active downed power lines and debris in the roads. Emergency Management is investigating why tornado sirens failed to activate when the National Weather Service issued tornado warnings in the county.

Ripon storm damage

Fond du Lac County officials give an update the storm damage and cleanup efforts in Ripon

Posted by WBAY TV-2 on Thursday, July 29, 2021

The National Weather Service announced it would send a crew to survey damage in southwest Winnebago County. NWS Milwaukee determined an EF1 tornado touched down near Concord in Jefferson County and and EF0 touched down near Waukesha.

“This is very significant. You can just see the amount of trees down and property damage. It was not just a simple thunderstorm or normal thunderstorm. It was a straight-line significant weather event that occurred here last night,” says City Administrator Adam Sonntag.

Sonntag urges people to stay home until crews can clear the roads and take care of the downed power lines. The Department of Public Works is cleaning debris from city streets. The city is getting help from crews from Green Lake and Fond du Lac counties. They hope to have roads cleared today.

“It is not safe. Obviously, people on their private property if they have damage and want to start assessing that and getting it taken care of, but if there is an active power line or power line anywhere, do not get close to it. Walking the streets and driving the streets is not safe at this point until we can get more things cleared and we can get more lines cleared up,” Sonntag says.

Sonntag says clearing roads is the top priority from the city’s perspective.

“Making sure people can travel and if there’s an emergency not having an entire tree blocking the roadway. Then working with our partners like Alliant to get power. That obviously is the big thing at this point,” said Sonntag.

Ripon Fire Chief Tim Saul says his department was called to dozens of reports of downed lines. “We responded to approximately, between police and fire, approximately 25 power lines, calls for power lines down. I’m sure there’s more. We’re still taking calls. It’s a significant safety issue that people stay in their houses,” said Saul.

Article continues below the video

The city is encouraging residents to conserve water during the power outage. Some outages have been restored. The city is working with Alliant Energy.

On Thursday morning, Alliant Energy provided an update on their efforts to restore power: “Alliant Energy crews worked through the night to begin restoring power in communities impacted by severe weather. Crews continue to assess the extent of the storm damage and restore power to customers as quickly and safely as possible. Alliant Energy urges residents to not touch or drive over downed power lines. Always assume a downed line is dangerous, even if it’s not jumping or sparking.”

The city teamed up with the American Red Cross for a charging station at Ripon Middle School. People can charge their mobile devices and get free water. The station is open until 6 p.m. Thursday.

Saul is also asking residents not to burn the yard waste from their cleanup but contact the Department of Public Works instead, to avoid any problems with burning that might stretch the fire department’s resources even thinner.

The Ripon compost site is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. People can drop off debris and yard waste free of charge.

The Ripon Fire Department responded to two fire calls -- one sparked by a generator. Chief Saul is reminding people using power generators to keep them outdoors, because of dangerous carbon monoxide, and away from combustibles.

“We responded to two fires in residences during the storm. The one was more significant than the other, which was actually caused by the use of a generator. Gentleman was using a generator that was too close to his house. Generator caught fire for some reason, which caught the house on fire on the outside, which extended to the inside. Nobody was hurt,” said Saul.

Saul reminds residents to not use generators near combustibles or inside of structures. He also reminds people to make sure candles are extinguished and smoke detectors are working.

There have been no reports of injuries. Residents with emergencies should call 911.

The main message: stay away from Ripon at this time.

“We understand people like to see this stuff, but we are asking please just look at social media for pictures from people that area here that live here. Please just try to stay away while we get this under control and make sure it’s safe for everybody,” Sonntag says.

Strong winds, torrential downpours, and hail moved through northeast Wisconsin Wednesday night, and tornado warnings were issued in the region.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Green Bay reported tree branches down on Highway 21, and winds were estimated to be between 60 and 70 mph.

Action 2 News had a crew in Omro where police reported a “significant amount of damage.”

“Please be cautious as most of the city is without power at this time making it hard to see. Crews from Alliant Energy are working hard to restore power and crews from City of Omro have made most streets passable,” reads a post on the Omro Police Facebook Page. “City crews will reconvene in day light hours to continue the clean up process. Currently Hy 116 is close from W Scott St to Cty Tk E due to power lines down. Please be cautious of power lines down. Omro Rushford Volunteer Fire Department have been responding to numerous calls. Please exercise caution when utilizing a generator.”

Jon Doemel, the Executive Director for Winnebago County, says the hardest hit areas include Omro, Rush Lake and Eureka, saying they all have a significant amount of trees and power lines down. In addition, there are power poles laying on the road.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says a crash on Highway 21 blocked all lanes of traffic near Omro at Edgewater Road overnight. It has since reopened. Officials say the driver was hospitalized for injuries after a semi-trailer was blown off the road, adding there wasn’t any cargo in the trailer.

The NWS says a funnel cloud was reported between Highway 91 and Rush Lake Road in Winnebago County.

The National Weather Service is looking for storm reports in Winnebago and Waupaca Counties. You can comment on their Facebook page or tweet @NWSGreenBay.

Article continues below video taken by Brandon McMullin on Main Street in Omro.

According to Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), they are working to repair more than 500 outages affecting more than 12,000 customers across its service area.

We Energies is reporting more 8,000 customers without power.

Both utility companies are still working to restore power to customers affected by storms earlier this week along the border of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

In addition, Alliant Energy is reporting more than 8,000 customers without power.

If you do lose power, you can report it online by using the following links. DO NOT call 911 to report the outage:

WPS - CLICK HERE

WE Energies - CLICK HERE

Reports also state there are multiple trees down in Marathon County, and winds are estimated at 60-65 miles an hour. A private weather station also reached wind speeds of 78 miles an hour, according to the agency.

CLICK HERE to get the latest forecast.

STORM TIPS

Avoid large, open rooms when taking shelter, and try to get to the lowest level available. Those who live in upper-level apartments may want to go to an interior room, or ask a downstairs neighbor to shelter in their unit.

Interior stairwells also work as shelter locations.

Anyone living in mobile homes should leave your home.

Items to include in an emergency kit:

  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Water
  • Nonperishable Food
  • Food for any pets you may have

RELATED: How long will food keep in the refrigerator during a power outage?

RELATED: EAA AirVenture tells guests to leave due to incoming storm, buses taking those at campsites to shelter

Stephanie Henke captured the following video of lightning in Oakfield at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Are you able to safely take pictures or video of storm damage? You can do so by clicking here.

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