Early storm damage estimate in Madison is $7-10 million; Southwest Side hit hard
By Barry Adams
Madison officials from the mayor to the new parks superintendent to streets, fire and cops lined up this morning to deliver this assessment of Madison’s response to the tornado and storms: Quick reaction, practiced and smooth response, with a lot of cleanup work ahead.
“I am pleased to report we can’t find any serious injuries among all the good people of Madison who suffered through this storm,” said Mayor Paul Soglin at a press conference. He said the preliminary damage estimate to public and private property in the city is $7-10 million, a figure that will surely change.
Streets Superintendent Chris Kelley said limits on brush drop-off will be lifted to aid in removing downed trees from neighborhoods. Already 29 crews were out collecting brush.
“Gawking doesn’t help and volunteers are not needed,” Soglin said in asking rubberneckers to stay away. Madison Police Capt. Jim Wheeler also asked people to stay away from the areas where damage was extensive and “feelings are still running high.”
Madison Fire Chief Steven Davis said the first call this morning related to the storm came at 12:16 a.m., with people trapped in a house, a call that brought out the department’s building collapse team. By 12:30 a.m. the decision was made, with Soglin, to open the Emergency Operations Center, a start-up that was “flawless,” he said. He praised the response from residents, too, calling Madison “a good, smart calm community.”
Officials said power was out for 5,000 homes at most, a number that was down to 1,100 by 11 a.m. and shrink to 350 or fewer by the end of the day.
Bus detour information is available by calling 608-266-4466 or going to www.mymetrobus.com, Metro Transit officials said. The only public building to suffer damage was a city garage.
Building Inspection’s George Hank said inspectors were checking structures for soundness and there were some that have already been deemed unfit for occupancy.
Soglin, still wearing a blue-checked work shirt, said he was on both sides of the city to assess damage and response this morning and was impressed with what he saw.
“This is why we’ve got regulations in society and why we have city employees. This is why we pay taxes. It is for moments like this,” he said.
Hanks stressed that residents should accurately assess all damages from the storm and report them to the city (608-266-4551), as the city will be sending information along the line for emergency aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Hardest hit area
One of Madison’s hardest hit areas by a line of storms that included an apparent tornado late Monday and early Tuesday was on the Southwest Side just west of Vitense Golfland.
The Madison Fire Department said at least 23 homes were damaged and at least six had their roofs torn off in a two-block area of Yorkshire Road and Friar Lane just south of Schroeder Road. Scores of trees were destroyed; some covered vehicles parked in driveways and others blocked Friar Lane.
No serious injuries were reported, but some residents left their homes and took shelter in a Madison Metro bus until they could find alternative housing. Crews from the the Madison Streets Division and from the Madison Forestry Department also responded to help clear the debris and used chainsaws, grapples and front-end loaders.
Darkness and the loss of power to the neighborhood obscured much of the damage but Dawn Sanderson, 40, who lives at 5818 Yorkshire Road, said she knows the damage was severe to her home and her half-acre property that had, until a few hours earlier, been filled with mature trees.
Sanderson was sleeping when the storm hit. Her husband and three daughters -- ages 16, 15 and 12 -- also were in the home when she was woken by strong winds.
“I looked out the window like I always do when there’s a storm just (in time) to see this tree literally snap and go flying and then the wires spark and fall,” Sanderson said pointing to what had been a healthy tree in her front yard. “The roof is gone so these rooms are flooded. The roof is half gone above the kitchen so that is flooded. There’s literally water coming through the ceiling lights and fans. The garage is gone.”
Bernadette Galvez, a spokeswoman for the Madison Fire Department, said most people in the neighborhood elected to stay in their homes and not seek alternative housing. Debris filled the front lawns and streets of the neighborhood and mangled the street sign at the intersection of Yorkshire Road and Friar Lane.
“We’re lucky no one was injured,” Galvez said as she led a reporter through the neighborhood with a flashlight. “Look at the devastation. Look at the severity.”
Nearby, police cordoned off a large portion of Schroeder Road as crews from the city, MGE and Hooper Corp. chased the thunder and lightning with roar of chainsaws and diesel trucks.
John Marshall, a public works supervisor who’s worked for the Madison Streets Division since 1977, was on scene and said the damage was the worst he had seen since a F-1 tornado ripped through several West Side neighborhoods, including Midvale Heights in 2004.
“It was comparable ... It hit a pocket very similar to this size and took everything down and damaged some homes. Most of the trees where that hit were virtually gone,” he said.
The Streets Division had six groups working through the darkness, each one equipped with three dump trucks, two clamp trucks and a loader. Marshall said he expects streets and forestry crews will have the worst of the fallen trees and debris cleared sometime Tuesday.
“We will build out as soon as daybreak starts to come and we get more staff in here. But particularly when you’ve got power lines and other issues, you don’t want to move too quickly and get anybody hurt,” Marshall said.
There were no immediate estimates of damage to the neighborhood but it was the most severe in the city, said Jerry McMullen, a Madison Fire Department prevention officer. East Washington Avenue, Jenifer, Spaight and Wilson streets were among the streets on the isthmus hit by the storm.
“There’s less building damage (on those streets) but just as much tree damage, McMullen said.
Other ares hit hard include Verona and Platteville, where officials announced early Tuesday that UW-Platteville would be closed Tuesday because of damage to campus buildings.
Ken Endres, 72, and his wife, Mary, have lived at 1006 Friar Lane since 1969. The couple’s home lost its roof during the storm. They later left their home to seek shelter on a Madison Metro bus brought in to protect residents from the rain. Mary, 73, was in tears, a box filled with medicine bottles on the seat next to her. Ken was wrapped in a blanket wearing jeans, a T-shirt and tennis shoes.
Mary was on the three-season porch and Ken at one end of the home when the winds struck.
“I looked down the hallway and there was sky out there and the hallway was filled with debris,” Endres said. “It was so fast we didn’t have time to take shelter. And if we did, we would have been heading down the hall to get downstairs to the family room.”
Endres said his neighbor’s garage was destroyed and another neighboring home also lost its roof. Another neighbor, Bettie Hall, had a more than 50 foot pine tree crash on to her home. Branches helped soften the blow from the trunk.
“It’s bad but fixable,” Hall said. “We had the tallest pine in the neighborhood. It was tall when we moved in 25 years ago.”
Across the street, Sue Teubert and Lyle Gruen lost their garage, three season porch, had two of their cars damaged and had the roof torn off their house. On Tuesday morning, water was dripping in the kitchen into buckets and wet spots were on the ceilings of the living room and dining room.
“All the trees are gone,” Teubert said. “You can be thankful we’re alive.”
State Journal reporters George Hesselberg and Jeff Glaze contributed to this report.
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