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Tornado Devastates Wisconsin Town Damage Estimated At $50 Million; Hundreds Homeless

Sat., July 20, 1996

Chainsaws buzzed in the soggy summer air Friday as dazed residents salvaged what they could in the wake of a tornado that cut through a canning plant, a school and dozens of homes.

Nineteen people were injured and $50 million in damage was caused by the twister that roared through this southern Wisconsin town of 1,000 Thursday night.

Hundreds were left homeless, 44 homes and five businesses destroyed and 130 buildings damaged.

Millions of empty, unlabeled vegetable cans from The Friday Canning Co. and debris were thrown 30 miles. Cattle were killed, barns blown down and roofs torn off.

“The village is shattered,” said The Rev. Thad Rutter, whose parsonage was a pile of plaster and broken boards.

Sue Roberts wept as she sorted soiled clothing, drenched books and broken furniture, stacking what little was left of her newly remodeled home.

She and her pregnant daughter had hid in the basement to ride out the tornado.

“I thought we were dying,” Roberts said. “They say it’s like a freight train. It’s like three freight trains. It’s awful.”

Severe thunderstorms created tornadoes, flash floods and high winds from the Ohio Valley across to the Mid-Atlantic states on Friday.

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