Storm socks Solon SpringsA severe thunderstorm that swept through Douglas County on Friday night toppled large trees, flattened at least one house and blew apart an airport hangar.
By: By Lisa Baumann and Andrew Krueger, Duluth News Tribune , Superior Telegram
SOLON SPRINGS — A severe thunderstorm that swept through Douglas County on Friday night toppled large trees, flattened at least one house and blew apart an airport hangar.
Trees were down nearly everywhere you looked along Ramel Road southwest of Solon Springs, according to eyewitnesses, and the heavy pine scent of snapped trunks smelled like a logging camp. The streets of Solon Springs were dark and silent by 10 p.m. A hangar at the Solon Springs Municipal Airport was ripped open, with just the frame still standing.
Ann Simpson of Hudson, Wis., was at her second home in the area when the storm hit. Her house weathered the storm, but she said she heard of more damage and possibly injuries farther down Ramel Road.
“A lot of people are coming up here tonight,” Simpson said, referring to other people with vacation homes in the area. “They’re coming here to find this.”
Emergency vehicles were pressing into the damage, and emergency responders employed front-end loaders about 10:30 p.m. to clear a path on the road. Beyond that tangle of trees, a house was flattened.
Neither the owner of the house, Joe Tillman, nor his girlfriend were home at the time. Tillman's house was demolished, and a horse was thrown over a fence and injured.
Tillman said he was just happy to see his dog climb out of the basement when he arrived.
“I'll deal with it,” he said.
Town of Superior firefighters, who were in the Solon Springs area offering assistance, said they knew of at least one other house that was significantly damaged.
Jeff Holmquist of Dresser, Wis., editor of the New Richmond News, was passing through the area about 9:30 p.m. and had to navigate numerous bunches of trees blocking state Highway 35. In some places, entire stands of trees were down, he said.
“From Dairyland to Danbury, there was no electricity that whole stretch of road. Only the casino had lights,” Holmquist said.
Holmquist passed through before it was completely dark.
“There was an eerie darkness all along that stretch. … It’s going to be dangerous when it gets dark. It was tough seeing all the trees in the road as it was.”
The National Weather Service in Duluth had issued a tornado warning for southern Douglas County, including Solon Springs, at 7:30 p.m.; it remained in effect until 8 p.m. That warning was based on radar — as opposed to a tornado sighting — and there was no confirmation late Friday on whether a tornado had touched down, or if the damage was caused by strong straight-line winds.
Also hard-hit Friday evening was Burnett County, where some roads were reported to be impassable because of downed trees.
Weather Service spotters reported significant wind damage in the Trade Lake area at about 7:15 p.m., with trees down and boats flipped over and blown on shore. That spotter attributed the damage to straight-line winds.
About 7:30 p.m., a spotter in Grantsburg reported that a 3.5-acre property had lost nearly every tree to wind, including several large, old oak trees. Siding and roof damage were reported at a home near Webster.
Shortly before 10 p.m. Burnett County officials reported that the county’s 911 system was down, and it was seeking aid from emergency officials in neighboring counties for assistance with storm cleanup.
The National Weather Service also relayed reports of tree damage in the Hayward, Barnes and Ashland areas.
There were some reports of large hail, too. Quarter-size hail fell near Maple and Brule about 7:15 p.m. Mammoth 3.5-inch-diameter hail — nearly grapefruit size — was reported east of Hinckley at 6:15 p.m.
Farther north, the storms brought heavy rain and some hail to the Twin Ports. A flash flood warning was in effect for Duluth and Superior through late Friday night; some street flooding was reported in Superior.