Wells receives damages Friday and Saturday

Published 5:50 pm Sunday, June 27, 2010

WELLS — High winds and storms on Saturday night resulted in numerous downed trees and power outages for at least half — if not three-fourths — of this city’s residents.

Just when Wells residents had gotten a grasp on the damage from a storm Friday night, a second round of storms came through Saturday, resulting in further damage.

It’s leaving some residents to ask if the severe weather will ever let up after seeing the destruction from it during the past two weeks.

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“I couldn’t believe it,” Wells Fire Chief Mike Pyzick said. “When I was driving around, I thought ‘Lord, not again.’”

On Friday, Pyzick said, a storm confirmed as a tornado went over Wells. It did not touch down but high winds still caused much damage. That night, the south and southeast part of town received the most damages.

A large tree fell through the roof of a house at 37 Fifth St. SE, which is at the corner of Fifth Street and First Avenue. No one was home at the time.

On Saturday, the storms damaged the west and northwest of Wells, Pyzick said.

Power was out for much of Wells since late Saturday night. Electricity at the fire hall got turned back on just after 1 p.m. Sunday, he noted. He was not sure about the rest of the city.

He said from what he knew there was minimal damage to homes from falling trees. There was mostly debris.

Firefighters were called in Sunday morning from Easton, Minnesota Lake, Bricelyn, Walters and Kiester to help pull off large trees from power lines. Pyzick estimated about 60 firefighters came to help.

The previous week, firefighters had been called to Kiester to alleviate the storm damage there.

Once power lines were clear, the firefighters helped others in need, whether it was to clean up debris around homes, public spaces or even cemeteries, he said.

Driving down the streets in Wells, branches could be seen along many of the curbs, awaiting pickup. They were all being taken to the city’s compost site on Minnesota Highway 109 or to another site two miles west of Wells near a rifle range.

“I hope (the storms) are done,” said Becky Bias, who was helping clean up downed branches at St. Casimir Cemetery on Sunday afternoon with her sons Brice, 11, and Ben, 8.

Several other parishioners of St. Casimir Catholic Church were also aiding in the cleanup.

“They’re doing their part,” Bias said about her young boys. “Every little bit helps.”

Toni Gimberline, 85, who has lived at 464 First Ave. for at least 60 years, said three trees fell on her house Saturday night, but she’s grateful no one got hurt.

“A house can be replaced,” she said. “Neither one of us got hurt, that’s what matters.”

Gimberline was home with her 8-year-old great-grandson during the storms.

She said the heavy damage was unexpected.

She recalled the weather being clear around 9 p.m. Saturday, and then by 10:30 p.m. the wind started blowing hard.

“When I looked out the door, the trees were swaying,” Gimberline said.

She took her great-grandson to the basement, and within a couple minutes they heard a crash, and one of the trees near the house fell on the roof.

Then she heard another crash.

When the storm had passed, three trees — one in the front, one in the back and one on the side — had fallen on the house.

Family and friends helped her clean up debris Sunday.

Gimberline said it had been a long weekend for her, as her neighbor’s house was the one damaged by a downed tree on Friday.

“I just wish it would stop scaring us,” Gimberline said about the weather.

She estimated a contractor was going to come and look at her damages in a few days.

Pyzick thanked the local electrical and tree services contractors who have been out helping clean up the damage.