Volunteers deliver food, clear debris and support Chetek neighbo - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Volunteers deliver food, clear debris and support Chetek neighbors after Tuesday's deadly tornado


Chetek (WQOW) - Among destruction from Tuesday's deadly tornado, stories of survivors came to the surface as cleanup continued Wednesday. 

The tornado destroyed 50 to 60 trailers in Prairie Lake Estates mobile home part alone, injuring 25 people and killing 46-year-old Eric Gavin

In the surrounding area, Amanda Kelash and Josh Turauski just moved into their home. They were home with their three children when the tornado came through and shredded their garage, put holes in their house and destroyed their two vehicles. 

"We ran into the basement and hid under the stairs," Kelash said. "It was the most terrifying experience. I can't even put into words how scary it was."

While the tornado tore their home apart, they said it brought the community closer together. 

"It has just been unbelievable the way people have been helping," Turauski said. "We can't thank the community enough for their outpouring of their support."

An area friend let the family borrow his car until they could find another means of transportation. Other residents flooded their yard to clean up tree debris.

"You can see the volunteers that we have here," Kelash said. "These are all people who just showed up. We didn't call them. They just showed up."

That community support continued in all surrounding areas Wednesday as Tuesday's deadly tornado brought life-lessons for the rural community of Chetek. With schools closed, staff came together to support their neighbors in need. Volunteers of all ages cooked what would have been that day's school lunch and delivered it to people cleaning up storm damage. 

"Everybody is just pitching in, young and old," Dawn Langman, a Chetek volunteer said.

Just hours after the storm went through, they were shocked to see some of the damage. 

"We've had so many people asking to help," Jenica Paulson said. "My husband works for Xcel Energy, and he has been working all night and day."

The storm could not blow away the community's passion for helping others, whether it was delivering food, cutting down tree debris or helping patch holes in homes. 

"We were out until about 11:00 last night, and then went out at 5:00 this morning," said Brad Hodgson, with Jerry's Tree Service. "We went and helped look for recovery for the first couple of hours, but otherwise we were just cutting trees."

Even though his house faced damage, Brian Furlong kept his head held high. 

"A lot of the local people have come out," Furlong said. "School people came out and cleared out the driveway. We had some building damage, but outside of losing a boat, we are doing pretty good. It is a tough one, but the community has really reached out, so I think they will do okay."

Furlong said he has never seen a storm with that strength, and he was hopeful the wheels of giving kept turning in Chetek. Residents said this is now a piece of their history from which they will recover.

RELATED LINK: HOW TO HELP: Recovery efforts underway in Barron, Rusk counties after tornado damage

RELATED LINK: WHERE TO SEEK HELP: Families, people affected by Tuesday's tornado

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