We were warned that a front would be moving in with high winds for days in advance. It wasn’t anything new actually; hard winds blow often around here and when you get to just the right spot in the road, e.g. open fields, holding a vehicle on the road is tricky for the uninitiated. However, Oct. 26, proved to more than the usual hard winds. Trees were blown down, buildings toppled, roofs ripped from buildings, and power line poles were knocked over. Power was out for thousands across several states in what has now been called the “strongest non-tropical cyclone to ever hit the continental United States,” according to meteorologist Matt Hoffman of WEAU Channel 13 in Eau Claire, Wis.
Personally, my power went out around 11:00 PM Tuesday night and stayed off until Thursday afternoon. The temperature was falling and with no power we had no water or heat. The house temperature quickly fell once the sun went down and was working on below 50° Fahrenheit before I finally called the local electric company and asked the status of our power being resumed. I was told to find alternative accommodations for the night because it wasn’t likely to be restored before the next day. They told me the local Armory in Phillips was set up as an emergency shelter. I called my husband at work and told him I would be reserving a room at the hotel in the town where he works. I learned two very important things. 1) I will never make it as a pioneer living in the rough. 2) I definitely need to get a generator! I have been assured that the outage time could have been much longer by those I work with.
I observed behemoth trees that were uprooted and barely missed houses, trees weighing down power lines, not quite breaking them, but in the realm of doing so if the wind hit it just right. One tree had literally caught another saving a house from being crushed. Another enormous tree landed just next to a house. Carcasses of trees strewed the ditches where they had been left after the parts of them that were across the roadways had been cut out of the way. We were told about a Quonset hut type building in the next county (only ten miles from my home) that had been twisted like a pretzel.
I spoke with Price County Electric in Phillips, Wisconsin, who is our service provider, on Friday, October 29 about the storm damage. They estimated the outage to have affected 5,000 residences/businesses. That was not counting those not on their system. On Friday there was somewhere short of one hundred still without power. I was told that there was so much damage throughout the state that calling for help from other cooperatives was pretty much not going to happen. The crews were all out trying to repair the damage. Finally they were able to get help from one crew from Richland Center from the very southern part of the state several hours away, and that was only because they had sent two crews to help out another district in the next county and as luck would have it, they actually had too much help and sent one of them to Price County. I was also told that they worked through the night Tuesday the 26th and the winds died down only to pick up again on Wednesday and undo just about all the repairs they had done during the night.
Many shelters had been set up throughout the state with an estimated 62,000 without power due to the storm according the Wisconsin Public Service Commission out of Green Bay. On Friday the number was down to about 6,500 and there were 400 workers still out in the heaviest hit areas in Wisconsin. The heavy rains associated with the storm also caused flooding along with the wind damage.
What happened: According to an article by Meteorologist Matt Hoffman on weau.com two thirds of the United States were affected by this storm. Mid-latitude cyclones are common but sometimes
are stronger than the norm and that is what hit October 26th. The storm was powered by a center of low pressure, like hurricanes, which are from the tropics with moisture in the low pressure center. The ones that are non-tropical are drier and the winds are lower because of blowing over the terrain. This one was the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane if over water (winds of 111 -130 mph.) This non-tropical cyclonic event had winds of 77 mph reported in Greenfield, Indiana, a report of 76 mph in Wisconsin, with most wind speeds between 50 to 60 mph, although there were reports higher. Areas affected experienced a variety of severe weather including heavy rains, high winds, snow and blizzards. At least seven inches of snow fell in Duluth, Minnesota with more accumulating throughout the state and into Wisconsin. North Dakota saw three to eight inches of snow. Racine County, Wisconsin experienced an EF-1 tornado which did a large amount of damage over a six mile area and had winds of 86 to 110 mph. The hardest hit areas of Wisconsin were Eagle River, Minocqua, Rhinelander, and Wabeno.
Some of my sources for this article are: