A series of heavy thunderstorms blew through north central and northeastern Wisconsin early Tuesday morning, knocking out electricity to more than 16,000 WPS customers across the area. As of 9:30 a.m., about 13,000 customers remained without power. One of the hardest hit areas was Merrill, which saw several large trees come down, bringing down power lines all over the city, leaving more than 5,000 without power.
“There are many local businesses in Merrill still without power,” said Tim Schreiber, the publisher of the Merrill Foto News. “There are trees down all over, and people are having difficulty just getting around right now. Many roads are still closed.”
According to Schreiber, the heaviest thunderstorms rolled through the Merrill area just after 6 a.m. this morning, bringing with them winds in excess of 70 miles per hour. The heavy winds knocked out several large electrical transformers, with Merrill’s east side being hit the hardest. Power wasn’t restored to several businesses in that area until after 10 a.m.
“There were a ton of power lines down all over the city, and people were calling and telling us about lines arching and other dangerous situations,” said Schreiber. “We haven’t heard of much structural damage yet, but with the amount of trees down, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear of some homes being damaged.”
Schreiber also said that the heavy rains led to leaks in many businesses, including at the Foto News offices. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen this building leak since I’ve been here,” said Schreiber. “There were a lot of buildings in town that just couldn’t handle the downpour.”
Adding to the damage, the Great Annual Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River (GRABAAWR) camped overnight Monday in a Merrill area park, and the campsite sustained heavy damage, including trees falling on tents and equipment. Schreiber said the campsite was evacuated before the heavy storms hit, and no injuries have been reported.
“We saw a lot of trees down on tents in the park this morning, but fortunately they had some advanced warning, and we think everyone is safe,” said Schreiber.
According to Wisconsin Public Service, the area hardest hit by this morning’s storms include:
– Merrill – 5,000 customers out in 154 separate outages
– Wausaukee – Nearly 2500 without power in 15 outages
– Antigo – 2, 080 out in 31 outages
– Wausau – 1900 out in 58 outages
– Marinette – 1,150 out in 75 outages
In general, those areas with the largest amount of outages will take the longest to restore. Crews from throughout the rest of WPS service area have been sent to the hardest hit areas to assist in restoration efforts. In addition, employees from around the company are being sent to identify storm damage and guard downed power lines. WPS reminds everyone in affected areas to stay clear of downed power lines and assume they are still energized.
While the severe weather has subsided, conditions remain for potential “pop-up” storms that could cause additional damage.
To see of photo gallery of Merrill’s storm damage, click here. To follow storm restoration progress, visit wisconsinpublicservice.com/outagesummary/view/outagegrid.aspx.