The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-0 tornado hit the Camp Lake area late Tuesday afternoon, where it toppled trees, sent debris flying and snapped power lines.
“Thank God for neighbors and chainsaws,” Ann Keaton said Wednesday as volunteers worked to clear the large tree that fell across her fence into her backyard.
Keaton, who has only lived in the Valmar subdivision for about a year, said neighbors were quick to lend a hand.
“I wasn’t home when it happened,” Keaton said, examining a branch that shot straight into her house. “When I saw it, I just wanted to cry.”
Chris Stumps, of the National Weather Service, said crews that visited in the morning confirmed it was a tornado.
“The crew did confirm a tornado in the Camp Lake area,” Stumps said.”It looks like it was an EF-0 with winds up to 80 mph.”
Stumps said the origin of the tornado was just south of the state line, where it started as a preliminary magnitude of EF-1 with winds between 85 and 90 mph.
The same crew visited Lake Geneva earlier in the day and confirmed an EF-0 tornado touched down there as well. The crew headed to Union Grove after Camp Lake to assess damage there.
Uprooted trees littered the subdivision, just north of Highway C in Camp Lake, while the tops of other trees were sheered straight off by strong winds. A tornadic debris signature was noted on radar, indicative of lofted debris. The NWS team from Milwaukee coordinated with a team from northern Illinois in an attempt to determine where the origin of the possible tornado.
The siding was stripped off Diane Garcia’s home and two large pines were felled in the storm, one landing on top of her home. Her wooden deck ripped off and landed in her backyard pool.
She was home when it hit. She and her neighbors near 286th Avenue and Highway C are certain it was either a microburst or tornado.
“We just stayed in the garage and screamed,” Garcia said. “We heard the high winds and a whistling sound.”
Some, like Garcia, were instructed by their insurance companies not to begin cleanup efforts until after an adjuster arrived. A giant Silver Maple tree that fell onto a garage, boat and trailer at 286th Avenue and 115th Place, lay untouched a few blocks away.
Adam Knowles, who works from home, said he was sitting by a window on a conference call when a notification alert posted on his cellphone.
“I didn’t even have time to move,” Knowles said. “I witnessed the tree outside the window fall (just missing the house).”
He, his wife and two children, both under age 2, moved to the interior of the home to wait out the storm.
“We don’t have a basement,” he said. “We had to go as far inward as we could go.”
While Camp Lake was the hardest hit area Tuesday, widespread damage and flooding was reported throughout Kenosha County.
A tree limb fell on a vehicle in Twin Lakes, briefly trapping a person inside; a house in Kenosha was struck by lightning, burning a hole in the roof; trees fell across several roadways; and We Energies’ reported thousands of customers were without power after the storm.
Between 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department deputies responded to the following weather and traffic-related calls: one accident with injuries; one property damage accident; 13 road hazard reports; 15 fire calls; and 19 service calls.
“This is a total of 49 calls in the span of the storm,” public information officer Sgt. David Wright said. “Our deputies were able to keep up with the calls for service and did an excellent job serving the people of Kenosha County. The roadways were dangerous, and we are thankful that none of the accidents involved life-threatening injuries.”
Roughly 913 residents were still without power at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Keaton said the power came back on at her house at 3:30 a.m. But, she immediately saw flames shoot out from an electric pole across the street and power was lost once again.
The cluster of strong thunderstorms that hit Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties evolved from several storms over southern Minnesota and northern Iowa that created what is referred to as a “derecho,” a widespread, long-lived storm with bow echoes, squall lines or quasi-linear convective systems, according to the NWS.