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Attacks of Nature: Thunderstorms and Hail

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

During Severe Weather Awareness Week, we're bringing a special series of reports, 'Attacks of Nature.'

Not many people can say they've seen hail the size of golf balls, let alone softballs.

But two summers ago in Wisconsin Rapids, residents stood in disbelief as their homes, vehicles and pocketbooks were attacked by a mega storm.

June 7th, 2007, was a wicked day for Wisconsin weather.

Several tornadoes and storms twisted through the state. And Wisconsin Rapids was hit with another form of nature's fury....hail.

"I came to work that day and for some reason I was nervous. I listened to weather reports on the radio and tv and they talked about severe weather in the late afternoon," said Leonard Ironside, co-owner of Ironside GMC Truck.

Ironside packed away as many vehicles at his dealership as possible, just in case.

And then it began to rain.

"I was kinda sick to my stomach," said Ironside.

Rain turned into enormous hail.

"Never have seen anything like that. Been in the car business for 40 plus years and never experienced a hail storm that came even close to this," he said.

Ironside was lucky, listening to weather reports and preparing as much as possible. But the hail left behind major destruction.

"From the sales standpoint it was a negative, our body shop did work for a year and a half after that."

Roofs were replaced, and about 70 vehicles were hit. Damage totaled $100,000. Throughout town you could see the wreckage of the storm, shattered glass, dented vehicles and destructed structures.

Wisconsin weather is always unpredictable and that's why thousands of volunteers get trained to become storm spotters.

Storm spotting is becoming more popular as mother nature continues to unload her fury.

More than 5,300 spotters have been trained in the last five years.

"You never really know how well you're prepared until it actually happens, but we do what we can," said Brian Sladek, Lincoln County's Emergency Managmenet director.

The volunteers help their communities and the National Weather Service by keeping a look out during severe weather.

When a storm hits, they're some of the first to get the information out to those who need it.

"Severe weather unlike a lot of emergencies that we plan for, it isn't if it happens, it's when it's gonna happen, because severe weather happens every year," said Sladek.

And that's why it's vital to keep an eye on the sky.

Note: Some photos used in this video are courtesy Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune.


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