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Tornado damages town of Lyons businesses

By Andrea Anderson
By Nick Crow
By Sarah Zimmermann
By Shelly Birkelo
August 19, 2015

TOWN OF LYONS—Town of Lyons businesses spent Wednesday cleaning up damage left by a tornado that ripped through an industrial park near Lake Geneva on Tuesday night.

Buildings and cars near Madaus Street in the town of Lyons were coated with pink and yellow building insulation sucked from tornado-damaged buildings. Trees  were uprooted and signs were destroyed. The tornado left a trail of damage in Walworth and Waukesha counties, according to the National Weather Service.

National Weather Service radar indicated storms produced the tornado at about 9:15 p.m. near Lake Geneva, and it intensified as it damaged at least six buildings in the town of Lyons before traveling to Mukwanago and Big Bend.

Sarah Marquardt, meteorologist at National Weather Service in Sullivan, said the damage created by the storm was consistent with an EF-1 tornado.

“We have found that there was damage at the EF-1 level, which is estimated to have winds up to about 110 mph in some of the areas,” Marquardt said.

“The storm was in Lake Geneva and then extended northeast towards the Lyons area,” she said. “We're still investigating areas further north into southern Waukesha County.”

A tornado warning was not issued, and the storm sirens were not activated. Marquardt said her office was watching the rotation and issued a severe thunderstorm warning when they saw the rotation. A tornado watch also was in effect.

“The tornado then dissipated before we would have issued a tornado warning,” she said.

It formed pretty quickly, and they estimate it was on the ground for about five minutes from Lake Geneva to Lyons.

“It turns out it touched down right away when we saw the rotation,” she said. “We weren't able to see the rotation really in advance too much of the tornado touching down. We weren't able to get any lead time out on (it).

“We can't always get a warning out like we would like to,” she said.

Marquardt said the storm produced winds between 80 mph and 110 mph.

Emergency crews from the Walworth County Sheriff's Office and Town of Lyons Fire Department responded at about 9:15 p.m. to Madaus Street at Highway 120 just north of Lake Geneva for a report of a possible tornado, according to a sheriff's office news release.

Deputies and firefighters found damage to several buildings in the town's industrial park. The damage could have been much worse, Undersheriff Kevin Williams said.

He described the tornado's path as "small and narrow ... littered with debris."

No injuries or deaths were reported. Two horses at a nearby residence had cuts that required attention, Williams said.

Several trees and tree limbs were reported down in Lake Geneva along Lakeshore Drive, Cass and Sage streets, area parks, and Eastview School, according to the National Weather Service.

Tod Pritchard, public information officer at Wisconsin Emergency Management, said it was very fortunate that there were no reports of injuries or fatalities.

“This summer has been really unusual,” Pritchard said. “We've had a lot of these kind of storms spin up quickly, drop down, do some damage and then they're gone. It's been happening all summer.”

“It's hard for spotters to see them when they happen at night,” he said. “It's very tough to track those.”

Pritchard said crews still were assessing damage Wednesday, but he said six buildings in the town of Lyons were significantly damage. Others reportedly had broken windows and roof damage, he said.

Williams said the industrial park was the hardest hit. Roofs were torn off, and walls were toppled before the wind strewed building contents across the area.

Peck & Weis Heating, Cooling, Electric and Plumbing located in the industrial park lost its roof, wall and contents, Williams said.

Dee Stotko, bookkeeper at Peck & Weis, was working Wednesday to salvage materials to set up a mobile office. She heard about the tornado through texts from her co-workers but didn't realize the extent of the damage to the building until this morning, she said.

“In Lake Geneva, the brunt of the damage was around Eastview School,” Pritchard said. “There were around 50 trees down. There was a lot of tree damage in that park.”

Minor damage was reported to a building at Geneva Square shopping area on Highway 12 south of Highway 120, according to the National Weather Service.

Highway 120 was shut down between Buckby Road and Highway 12 for electrical power repair through the night until about 6 a.m. Wednesday, when energy companies completed repairs and restored power, Williams said.

"These buildings can come and go all day long, but you can't replace people," Williams said.

The Wisconsin State Patrol and Wisconsin Emergency Management assisted the Sheriff's Office and Lyons Fire Department.

The sheriff's office will patrol the industrial park as clean-up continues to prevent looting.