Barneveld residents share their stories of the tornado that went - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Barneveld residents share their stories of the tornado that went through town 30 years ago

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BARNEVELD (WKOW)--  Thirty years ago Sunday an F-5 tornado tore through the village of Barneveld, killing nine people and injuring more than 200 others. The story captivated the nation as a tiny village of less than 600 people was hit by one of the most costly tornadoes in history. The estimated cost of the tornado was higher than $25 million.

"Everybody has a different story to tell about what happened to them," former village president Mary Ann Myers says.

Myers was serving as a village board member when the tornado hit Barneveld. She had the unique dilemma of being both a resident who lost their home as well as a community leader who was expected to have all the answers. She says the first thing she did when the tornado hit was to check on her neighbors in the adjacent duplex.

"When I opened the door to the other side, there was nothing there. Believe me, I died a little bit then," Myers says. "It was just so devastating. The town was hit so hard."

Longtime Barneveld resident Al Wright was working on the village rescue crew when the tornado hit town. He remembers dropping off a patient in Madison when dispatch told him the devastating news that a tornado had touched down in the village.

"They said get back to town as quick as you can, because your town has been basically wiped out. We headed back as hard as we could," Wright says.

All of the stories from that life-changing day back in 1984 are stored at the village library, which was actually being built when the tornado came through town. It was destroyed in that event and was later blown down again during another thunderstorm later that Summer. The library was finally rebuilt in 1985 and has housed the historical documents of the tornado for the past 30 years.

"There's a lot of history here," Barneveld library director Carrie Portz says.

Portz and a handful of other village leaders are working to preserve the history of that life-changing storm.

"It's one of our primary missions because if we don't do it, who is going to do it?" Portz says.

In order to keep these stories alive for future generations, village officials are working to expand the library in 2015. They're hoping the new building with remind residents where they've been and will give them something to look forward to.

"This library kind of enables both of that. It houses the stories, but it's also going to house the future of our village with this expansion," former village president Mike Peterson says.

Village officials say they still need about $100,000 before they can start working on the new library. They are hoping to break ground in March of next year.


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BARNEVELD (WKOW)-- For many Southern Wisconsinites, very few moments in history stick out more than the F5 tornado that hit Barneveld on June 8th 1984. Locals say the humidity was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Many went to bed expecting an overnight thunderstorm, but no one could have imagined how much the storm would change their lives forever.

The tornado hit Barneveld just before 1:00 a.m. and locals say it only touched down for less than a minute. Those few seconds were enough to destroy nearly 90 percent of the town. The storm claimed the lives of 9 people and injured more than 200 others. Many residents wondered if the village would continue to exist after the tornado, but thanks to the help from surrounding communities they were able to rebuild the village and move on.

Tonight on 27 News at 5:30 and 10:00 p.m. we'll hear from residents who lived through the tornado that passed through town 30 years ago. We've also found file video of previous news stories that show the devastation of this life-changing tornado.
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