Radio amateurs converge to help tornado-stricken town
An Amateur Radio Emergency Service team is on the scene in the northwestern Wisconsin community of Ladysmith, which was devastated by a tornado on Labor Day. American Radio Relay League Wisconsin Section Manager Don Michalski, W9IXG, reports that the first wave of ARES volunteers arrived in the Rusk County town of nearly 4000 inhabitants at 10 p.m. Monday, within hours of the tornado.
Reports indicated that the tornado arrived with little or no warning. “We were lucky that this hit on a holiday, when the business district was closed,” Michalski remarked. The Ladysmith tornado was one of four that touched down in the Badger State on Labor Day, but it was by far the most damaging. Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum has declared a state of emergency in Rusk County. McCallum toured Ladysmith on Sept. 3.
Jim Staatz, KG9RA, reported that members of the Eau Claire Amateur Radio Club and the Tri County Repeater Association have been providing communication support for the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. In addition, Paul Brooten, KB9TYC, of the Tri County Repeater Association reports that the Barron County American Red Cross Amateur Radio Club and the Norwesco ARES/RACES team from Washburn County also have been involved in assisting the relief organizations. Eau Claire County Emergency Coordinator Rob Indrebo, KB9SDF, also has been among those assisting.
The Red Cross and the Salvation Army opened a shelter at a high school in Bruce. A toll-free number for people inquiring about family members has been set up. It’s 800-837-6313.
The Salvation Army reported that its emergency disaster relief personnel immediately went into action following the tornado that also left hundreds without shelter and thousands without electricity. “Two Salvation Army canteens have been roving the area offering aid, including meals and crisis counseling, to residents and relief workers,” a Salvation Army news release stated. The Salvation Army said it also was providing residents with vouchers to replace prescriptions, clothing and other necessary items lost in the tornado.
The severe weather that moved across Wisconsin also spawned two tornadoes in Marathon County—one in Brokaw, near Wausau, and one near Athens—as well as in the Fond du Lac County town of Brandon. Wind damage was reported in several other communities.
Wisconsin Emergency Management reported that the tornado that hit Ladysmith cut a swath some 14 to 16 blocks long and 2 to 4 blocks wide, destroying numerous businesses and homes. There were no reports of fatalities, but some 60 people were injured. Most were treated and released. Search and rescue operations continued throughout the evening of Labor Day. Crews this week worked to restore power, and all roads were reported open.
(American Radio Relay League Newsletter)