Barron County residents look back one year after deadly tornado - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Barron County residents look back one year after deadly tornado


Barron County (WQOW) - One year after the longest tornado touchdown in Wisconsin history, for some the recovery still isn't over. 

"We're still cleaning up as you can see," said Darren, a resident of Prairie Lake Estates. "Pretty much everything is cleaned up, now we're doing a lot of landscaping." 

On May 16, 2017 an EF-3 tornado tore through parts of Polk, Barron, Rusk and Price counties. 

Related Info: Tornado Touchdown

"Our house was major damage," said Darla Amundson. "It was four feet that way and five feet back. All the trees, fence, everything's gone of course. The inside has glass and insulation embedded in the walls, the floors, glass busted out. I'm still finding glass." 

A man was killed and dozens of others were injured. Prairie Lake Estates in Chetek was devastated by the tornado. Forty trailer homes were destroyed - displacing dozens of families.

"My daughter was in lot number nine, and my son was in lot five, and both their trailers were totally wiped out, gone, but this one was sitting on it's side, still repairable, so we repaired it," Darren said. "Those buildings that it wiped out over there by the trees, they've been here for pretty close to 100 years, so if we got another 100 years, I don't think we have to worry about it, I think we'll be alright."

Through the destruction, residents remained resilient.

"It's a sad way to get a beautiful place again," Amundson said. "There's no trees, but we can live with it. They'll grow again, and I have lots of plants I'm going to be setting out, and I got my garden. So, it's just a day-by-day process."

They've repaired and rebuilt.

"We thought well, we're going to fix it up and we're gonna stay here because somebody has to help get it going back to a good thing," Amundson added.

With a little time, the community will be whole again.

"For those who are still recovering, I guess I want to say God bless you, and I think as you ask, people will come, people will help," said Chetek Mayor Jeff Martin. "So, we hope that this summer is a lot more restful than last summer was."

Wednesday night, the community gathered again to remember the events from one year ago. 

The event, organized by the Barron County Sheriff's Department was meant to offer a place for everyone impacted by the tornado to come together - including first responders, volunteers and residents.

More than 150 properties were battered in the tornado, causing more than $10 million in damage.  

Barron County residents impacted by the 2017 tornado gathered in Chetek for a tornado anniversary event Wednesday night.

Dozens of neighbors, friends, first responders and volunteers came together at the Chetek Airport Park for a remembrance ceremony of the tornado that tore through their area, damaging over 150 properties. Those residents were gifted a flowering crab tree to plant, and bring some beauty to an area once devastated.

The Barron County Sheriff told News 18 the event was organized to recognize all the good that has come out of the past year.

"This community came together like nothing I've ever seen in my entire life, and hope to never see again, but what I learned out of this, is this community can endure just about anything, and together we will get through it," said Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald.

Sheriff Fitzgerald also said there are no plans for future anniversary events at this time, but he hopes the trees will help grow back the community.

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