Southern Wisconsin cleans up after storms
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Homeowners and repair crews cleaned up and restored electricity Wednesday after another round of severe storms hammered southern Wisconsin, toppling trees, knocking down power lines and flooding streets.
Authorities said they received no reports of any injuries. The storm surged into the Madison area during the morning commute just before 8 a.m., dumping sheets of rain that reduced visibility on Interstate 94 to less than 100 yards. Drivers stopped under overpasses or along the highway's shoulders to wait out the deluge.
Damage in Madison, Cottage Grove and Sun Prairie on Wednesday morning was sporadic, said Dane County Emergency Management specialist Carrie Meier. At least five houses and five vehicles in Sun Prairie were damaged by fallen trees, county officials said. State emergency management officials said the National Weather Service confirmed either straight-line winds or a microburst - an intense, localized downdraft - occurred in Sun Prairie and Cottage Grove.
Numerous trees were uprooted in a neighborhood on the far west side of Madison, including one that crushed a van in a driveway and others that blocked streets. Traffic lights were out in downtown Madison and police closed several streets.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning based on radar readings, but Meier said a tornado didn't touch down. State emergency officials said winds reached maximum speeds of only 55 mph but the soil was so moist that the winds were able to knock down trees and power lines.
The Milwaukee area got so much rain in the first few hours of Wednesday that the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District was forced to open its overflow valves and allow untreated waste to flow into area rivers to avoid basement backups. MMSD spokesman Bill Graffin said the district typically sees about two such overflow events every year.
Sandy Rusch Walton, a spokeswoman for Milwaukee's public works department, said her department had received 128 complaints of flooding on city streets as of midday Wednesday. She said 25 crews were working on the problems.
Wednesday's storm followed one that caused major damage to about 30 homes in Madison and another 30 in Verona. The weather service said at least six tornadoes hit Wisconsin overnight Monday into Tuesday. State emergency management officials said two tornadoes rated an F1 on the Fujita scale, which measures tornado intensity from zero to five. An F3 tornado hit Dane County; three F2s hit Grant county; and two F1s hit Green County, state officials added.
Alliant Energy spokesman Scott Reigstad said about 15,000 customers across 15 southern Wisconsin counties lost power during those storms. The utility had restored power to all but about 800 customers in Platteville when Wednesday morning's storms struck. He said that as of about 9:30 a.m., 8,700 customers across 20 counties were without power. The utility had restored power to all but 521 of them by 3:45 p.m., he said.
Brian Manthey is a spokesman for We Energies, which supplies power to the state's far southeastern corner, including Milwaukee. He said about 49,000 customers lost power in the first round of storms overnight Monday into Tuesday. Another 16,000 lost power in Wednesday morning's storms. The utility hoped to have power restored to almost everyone by midnight Wednesday.
State emergency officials said that as of 3 p.m. Wednesday 9,586 customers were without power across the state.
Forecasts called for another round of storms to move across the state Wednesday evening and overnight into Thursday. A flash flood watch was in effect in western and south-central Wisconsin until Thursday morning.
Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.