Residents Pick Through Rubble of Destroyed Wisconsin Trailer Park

Baihly Warfield
May 17, 2017 10:20 PM

CHETEK, Wis. - After a long and scary night, residents of the Prairie Lakes Mobile Home Park were let in to begin going through what they could find of their belongings. 

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The tornado that swept through killed 45-year-old Eric Gavin. Another man is in serious condition Wednesday, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said. Seventeen were sent to the hospital with injuries. 

One of them was Robin Tyson's husband. 

"Glass from the windows was blowing at us like shards like people throwing spears," Tyson said. "He got a big old gash, so he had to go get stitches at the ER."

The National Weather Service preliminarily classified the tornado as an EF2, and it said winds reached 120-130 mph. 

Dominique Seever and her fiance, Joseph, had lived in the mobile home park for eight months. Seever's grandmother owns it. 

"We thought our house was still going to be there. And we walked down and were like, it's gone," Seever said. 

"I found a couple photo albums and a couple pairs of pants. And that was pretty much it," Joseph said. 

They haven't found sound irreplaceable belongings. 

"Engagement rings and some stuff that mean a lot to us from family members that have passed on," Joseph explained. 

Dominique was picking Joseph up from work in Rice Lake when the tornado hit, so they weren't home. Tyson and her husband were, and she said it came without warning. 

"All of a sudden we heard this wind and this hail, and we looked out the door, and they were golf sized. They were huge," Tyson said. 

The neighbor's trailer blew into the side of hers. Part of it landed on top of her husband's pickup. Once the winds calmed, the two were able to crawl out of their storm door. 

"We just sat in there, and we thought it was over," Tyson said. "We just asked God to save us, and He got us out."

Gov. Scott Walker toured the damage Wednesday afternoon. He said storm warnings should be taken seriously. 

"Increasingly now, we don't just get it through sirens as I did growing up in a small town, but now on our mobile devices," Gov. Walker said. "I would strongly encourage people going forward, it's yet one more reminder, when you get that advanced warning, take heed of it and go find appropriate place for shelter."

In the meantime, Joseph said he'll just take things day by day and minute by minute. 

"We got a huge community here that is starting to help each other," he said. "People that don't know each other, we now know, and we're all becoming kind of a family."

Cleanup will take days and weeks. Because it's privately owned, that will be up to the owner to make sure it gets done. For most, it's still too early to think about rebuilding or what comes next. 


Baihly Warfield

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