A large limb of a maple tree lies over a house owned by Peggy Wetzel at 211 Hatten Ave. in Rice Lake after it was fractured by strong winds Monday night. Wetzel, who was on the other end of the house when the branch crashed down, said the entire house shook on impact at approximately 10 p.m.
Eileen Nimm Chronotype staff
Monday night brought a prolonged thunderstorm and high winds to the area that toppled numerous trees and left some people without power. The majority of calls reporting downed power lines and trees in Barron County came from the Cumberland and Chetek areas, said Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, who helped out in dispatch when it became inundated with calls at about 8:30 p.m. The Rice Lake Airport recorded from Monday 8 a.m.-Tuesday 8 a.m. .29 inches of rainfall. Sustained wind speed was recorded at about 35 mph with wind gusts at about 45 mph, said an airport spokesperson. Early Tuesday morning, Barron Electric Cooperative "continued to experience widespread interruptions in power throughout our service area because of the severe weather that passed through," stated a phone recording. Areas affected included Barronett, Birchwood, Cameron, Chetek, Cumberland, Hayward, Hillsdale, Rice Lake, Sarona, Shell Lake, Spooner, Spring Brook and Trego areas. There was no estimated time of restoration. By 12:10 p.m. Barron Electric reported that crews had reduced the number of outages to about 450 members and would continue to work to restore power throughout the day. The Cumberland Fire Department was called out at about 9:45 p.m., initially for power lines down on the city's northeast side, said chief Barry Kuenkel. Shortly after that, they were called to the north side of town on Hwy. 63 for power lines and trees down. "After that, it was everywhere," said Kuenkel. He said traffic was diverted around blocked roads and possible hazards. Removing trees was a joint effort by the firefighters, the city tree crew and utilities, he said. Firefighters were back at the station just after midnight, said Kuenkel. Excel Energy reported Tuesday morning that "crews had worked through the night to restore power to Wisconsin customers impacted by the latest storm that included heavy rain, hail and damaging winds." They, too, had no estimated time that power would be restored and warned people to stay away from downed wires or power poles. The weather service spokesperson said up to 1 1/2 inches of rain fell in the southern part of the county in the Prairie Farm, Chetek and New Auburn areas. The service released a high wind warning in effect with wind speeds up to 50 mph. Chetek Fire Department chief Al Zeltner said they were out for a couple of hours clearing trees from roads, but Chetek wasn't hit as hard as Cumberland. Hwy. D was closed in a couple of locations at one time, he said, because of downed trees and downed and sparking power lines. Zeltner said most affected was about a 1-mile stretch of Hwy. D east of Chetek. There were downed power lines in a couple of other locations along with trees down across the road, said Zeltner. Traffic was rerouted around downed trees on Pleasure Street near Hwy. SS, he said. "In the grand scheme of things, it can get a lot worse, but it was bad enough that we needed to go out and do something about it," said Zeltner. Rice Lake Utilities electric superintendent Leo Diehl said they only had one call in the city because of a couple of trees that fell on power lines. The residential outage was temporary, he said. "We've been very aggressive with tree trimming over the last 5 years and that significantly reduces the potential outages when storms like this hit," Diehl said.