CHIPPEWA FALLS — The damage estimate from the Sept. 24 tornado in the town of Wheaton has reached more than $3 million, according to Chippewa County Emergency Management director Dennis Brown.
Brown said he has submitted the rough estimate to the state, which includes the costs of repairing or replacing the 29 homes that were damaged or destroyed. The 22 single-family homes are valued at $2.57 million, and the seven manufactured homes are valued at $136,500, for a total housing cost of $2,706,500.
Debris removal, so far, is estimated at $90,000, and Brown said that number will grow. Emergency protective measures totaled $10,000, and repairing public utilities is estimated at $210,000, for a public property total of $310,000.
“I didn’t have (cost estimate) expectations either way on it,” Brown said. “Debris clearing is an expensive thing. Obviously, the volunteers were a great help for defraying the costs.”
The town will apply for assistance through the Wisconsin Disaster Fund.
The EF3 tornado touched down in Elk Mound around 7:43 p.m. Sept. 24 and traveled east into Chippewa County, moving through the town of Wheaton and ending just west of Chippewa Falls, according to the National Weather Service. The tornado was on the ground for 4.3 miles, and it was a half-mile wide. A total of 1,520 acres were impacted. A total of 25 square miles was searched for people with injuries.
Wheaton Fire Chief Adam Blaskowski said cleanup efforts over the weekend made a significant dent in the debris and garbage. There were organized cleanup efforts Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, bringing more than 1,000 volunteers, many who worked eight to 10 hours, he said.
“It would have taken five years to do what was done in four days,” Blaskowski said. “It’s just incredible the amount of work that has been done.”
Blaskowski said 480 volunteers showed up on Saturday and another 270 on Sunday.
“We have a lot of work left to do. It’s going to be months. But we’re far ahead of where we expected to be at this point. The roads are clear, the right-of-ways are clear. They are picking up the last little bit this morning,” Blaskowski said Monday.
He praised the assistance from the Department of Natural Resources.
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“The DNR brought in a team of management, who set up and managed the volunteers,” he said. “They met with homeowners on what was needed. They did a wonderful job.”
Farmers showed up with grain trucks, and construction firms brought vehicles to help haul brush. All the brush is being brought to the Wheaton Fire Station to be destroyed.
“The chipper they have is incredible,” Blaskowski said. “It’s chipping as fast as they can load it.”
Blaskowski said the residents are quickly taking care of the immediate repairs to their homes.
“It looks like most roofs have been tarped, and shingles have been put back in,” he said.
There won’t be an organized cleanup effort this week, but Blaskowski said anyone who wishes to volunteer should show up at the Wheaton Fire Station between 9 and 10 a.m. each day. Blaskowski said they have plenty of donated food, and volunteers will be fed meals throughout the day.
“We can’t thank the volunteers enough,” he said. “It’s just been unbelievable.”