Severe weather had Rusk County on edge Monday evening as the sheriff’s department reported a tornado on the ground and storm sirens sounded in Ladysmith for more than a half hour.
Law enforcement and a trained weather spotter confirmed a tornado on the ground one mile east of Bruce at 7:15 p.m. on July 15, according to a National Weather Service statement.
Around 7 p.m., sand plant workers near Weyerhaeuser began reporting multiple funnel clouds moving eastward toward Bruce. Soon after, truck drivers in that area reported seeing two tornadoes.
Also shortly after 7 p.m., there was a report of a rotating cloud two miles south of Weyerhaeuser with a lot of wind. The reports were unconfirmed at that time.
Sirens began sounding around 7:15 p.m. in Ladysmith. They continued to sound throughout the storm.
Fire departments from Weyerhaeuser, Bruce, Ladysmith and Hawkins were dispatched to go out on weather watch.
Law enforcement later reported a tornado on the ground based on emergency radio traffic.
“Rusk County did not receive any major damage due to the storm. All damage was limited to trees and power lines,” Sheriff Jeff Wallace said.
The National Weather Service will be in the county Tuesday, assessing and investigating the damage, according to Wallace.
The Rusk County Sheriff’s office received five reports of funnel clouds and a tornado during the storm.
6:53 p.m. — Report of a funnel cloud with full rotation near the Cenex Station in Weyerhaeuser.
6:57 p.m. — Report of cloud on the ground near the sand plant in Weyerhaeuser.
6:59 p.m. — Report of two funnel clouds with ground contact near the sand plant in Weyerhaeuser.
7:17 p.m. — Report of a small rotation of clouds near the ground 3 miles west of Bruce.
7:25 p.m. —Report from a storm chaser that a funnel cloud was near the Indeck Plant south of Ladysmith.
The National Weather Service reported 1.49 inches of rain fell in Ladysmith. It also said severe thunderstorm damage was reported in Prentice with small branches and leaves stripped off trees in Price County. About 3.27 inches of rain was reported in Lublin in Taylor County.
“What I have seen so far, if it was a tornado it wasn’t a very big one,” Rusk County Emergency Management Director Tom Hall said.
Hall was touring several areas where storm damage was reported. He said the National Weather Service may also respond with personnel to the area depending on the extent of any damage that is found.
Emergency crews quickly began assessing the damage as the storm began clearing from the west.
Michael and Lisa Hansen were in their horse arena barn when part of the roof ripped off and a west-facing wall tipped inward. The couple is safe, as are their buffalo, horses and other farm animals.
“When they say it sounds like a train coming, they aren’t lying,” Lisa Hansen said.
The Hansens were cleaning up debris and returning animals to their pens on Tuesday morning.
“We were in the barn when this all came off,” Lisa Hansen said, pointing to wreckage on the ground. “It was really scary. I am not going to lie. It was very scary.”
They lost power.
“We are very fortunate we didn’t lose any animals and we are all OK,” Lisa Hansen said.
They watched the storm approach from the southwest.
“It took the roof off here at this end and did a lot of damage down here at the front of the barn,” Lisa Hansen said. “But it didn’t touch that building over there. We have some trees down, and the buffalo are all good. They are happy to be back out, and so are the cows.”
Michael Hansen called the storm scary.
“We really didn’t have time to think about it. We were more worried about trying to save the animals,” Michael Hansen said.
“The roof came first, but the second wave, the back side of the storm, took the wall,” he said.
“No major damage that we found at this time. Lots of down trees,” Wallace said shortly after the storm had passed. “We will be out in the morning to look more.”
Ladysmith Fire Chief Kyle Gibbs said after the storm passed on Monday, “Mostly trees down. Haven’t heard anything else yet.”
A second line of storms passed through the county at sunset shortly after 9 p.m., when a rainbow also appeared.
Early Tuesday morning, Ladysmith work crews were picking up branches that had fallen.