A severe storm that grew rapidly over Rusk County last Thursday, caused flash flooding in downtown Ladysmith and a tornado with little warning near Bruce.
The storm tore siding off the home of Randy and Linda Kern, W10569 Old 14 Rd. in the town of Thornapple. It collapsed an outbuilding, ripped off its roof and damaged several trees. They were still cleaning up the day after the June 24 storm.
Randy was outside rototilling as the storm cell gathered strength over a field to the south. He watched as the tornado drew leaves and other debris into the air.
“You could just see the tornado was sucking everything in. It was going up, coming down and going up,” he said.
For a moment it looked like the tornado had vanished, so feeling lucky Kern went back to his rototiller. He made one pass in the garden and the tornado reappeared.
“There was stuff being sucked up like you wouldn’t believe. It must have picked up leaves back there coming across because it had millions and millions of leaves in it,” Kern said.
He got in his truck to alert neighbors, but as he pulled away he watched as the storm collapsed an outbuilding near his home.
“That roof was like 20 feet in the air,” Kern said. “It was starting to rain and pouring.”
Despite the extensive damage at the Kern property, there is little other damage along Old 14 Road. An elm tree was lifted a half-foot in the dirt, causing it to list to one side.
In Ladysmith, weather warning sirens sounded as skies darkened and rain poured. Several city intersections became flooded. Water from passing vehicles washed against buildings and storm drains overflowed.
“The wind was terrible,” Kern said.
No injuries were reported.
More belongings from the Kern’s property were scattered about.
“Once it got done here that was it. It was done,” Kern said.
The Rusk County Sheriff’s Department and Bruce Fire Department responded.
National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Todd Krause in the NWS Twin Cities Forecast Office in Chanhassen, Minn., called the storm “obviously a tornado.”
“I’ve also seen a few photos of the damage, and if it is localized to just the one farm, then those damage pictures will be enough for us to determine tornado strength without physically being on site. So right now we have enough information through a virtual survey,” Krause said.
The estimated strength of the tornado will be released later, according to Krause.
The National Weather Service has not issued confirmation of a tornado in Rusk County as of Tuesday this week. A tornado warning also was not issued by NWS during the storm.
Flash flooding occurred in downtown Ladysmith. Several intersections were under knee-deep water as storm sewers filled to capacity.
The storm caused some damage with no injuries, according to Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Wallace.
In the Ladysmith area, Police Chief Kevin Julien and Fire Chief Kyle Gibbs both reported some fallen trees on U.S. 8 east of Ladysmith High School.
Rusk County Emergency Management Director Tom Hall noted most damage in the area was minor except for the Kern property.
“There are a few trees down in various places,” Hall said.
A few amateur videos of the storm have been submitted to area television and social media, showing the possible tornado.
The city of Ladysmith reported 1.62 inches during the June 24 storm.
A weather station at Rusk County Airport indicated 0.56 inches of rain fell between 3:15-3:55 p.m. with a heavy thunderstorm at 3:35 p.m.