A storm carried 100-mph wind gusts to Madison and the rest of South Dakota on Thursday, damaging homes and leaving thousands without power.
No injuries or deaths have been reported in the city, Madison Mayor Roy Lindsay said Thursday. Two people in South Dakota died during the storm, The Argus Leader reported.
Gov. Kristi Noem was in Madison on Thursday evening while surveying storm damage and planned to send National Guard troops on Friday to help with cleanup, Lindsay said, adding he has talked to local contractors to also help.
Lindsay said several businesses and farms have been destroyed or heavily damaged.
Photos from across Lake County showed trees uprooted, power lines down, roofs ripped to shreds and debris scattered across lawns.
There are two dumps in town for trees and other debris; residents can get more information on them at the command center set up at the police station. An assessment over the next couple of days will determine whether storm victims are eligible for FEMA funding.
He said no determination had been made yet on whether the storm event was a tornado. The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said Thursday night that no tornadoes had been confirmed in the area.
But the area was battered by strong winds. Madison Municipal Airport recorded a 97-mph wind gust around 5 p.m. Thursday, Meteorologist Philip Schumacher said Thursday. Lindsay said wind north of Madison was clocked at 120 mph.
The Madison Central, Rutland and Chester school districts canceled school on Friday due to the storm, officials reported.
The East River Electric Power Cooperative was working to restore power Thursday evening and had 40 substations without power. That was down from 49 substations earlier in the day.
Lindsay said he has been given no solid timeframe for when power will be restored. He said the biggest issue is damage outside of Madison that energy providers must repair before the city is reconnected.
“It’ll be a while,” he said. “That was the answer, ‘It’ll be a while’.”
More than 25,000 people across the state were without power Thursday evening, the Argus Leader reported.
Red Cross shelter opens
Gene Wockenfuss, director of the Madison Community Center, said the Red Cross has set up there for anybody who needs temporary or overnight shelter.
They had several people stop by to see what was available just in case, and one man was staying there as of late Thursday.
“We’re going to leave it open until the lights come on,” he said.
Wockenfuss said there were more than a dozen children in an after-school program and several adults in the building when the storm struck about 5:10 p.m. He said they took everybody to the locker rooms in the inner part of the building and “sheltered in place.” He said the storm raged more than an hour.
He said a woman took a video that appeared to show “a partial tornado by the elementary school.”
Damage and more damage
Tammy Cole-Rebelein’s family has owned a farm west of Madison for 150 years but was in Brookings, 45 minutes northeast, when the wind struck.
When the sirens went off, they headed for the basement. ”It came very fast, very fast,” she said.
They lost a 100-year-old barn and parts of other buildings, but their horses were fine other than one minor injury.
“We’re going to assess the damage and start the cleanup,” she said Thursday evening. “It’ll be a rebuilding process for a lot of families.”
She said she believes they experienced a mix of straight-line winds and tornadoes — her mother said wind alone wouldn’t have left some of the twisted damage they saw.
Her daughter, Gabrielle Rebelein, the 2022 Teen Miss Rodeo South Dakota, detailed the damage to their farm in a Facebook post, but noted, “There were many other friends that suffered greater disaster…If I know anything, it’s that the people of South Dakota are resilient, hardworking, and always willing to lend a helping hand.”
Madison city buildings also saw some damage, said Mayor Lindsay. Doors have been blown in on municipal buildings but they’re all standing. “We’re not in too bad of shape,” Lindsay said.
He said part of the roof at the Dakota Prairie Playhouse at Dakota State University had been blown off and that he does not have a damage report yet out of the airport.
He said Thursday that police would have extra patrols overnight to guard against vandalism “because the town is totally dark.”