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Mary Hagen, Ashland

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Tornado likely to blame for Sanborn damage

A severe thunderstorm that damaged several homes and other buildings, uprooted trees and downed power lines early Saturday near Sanborn likely spawned a small tornado that was responsible for much of the damage.

National Weather Service meteorologist Krystal Kossen said an investigation is continuing into the damage, but the damage followed a relatively narrow path through the area, indicating that a weak tornado touched down.

"The damage would have been more widespread if it had been straight-line winds," Kossen said.

The weather service said the tornado touched down just before 3 a.m. with wind speeds of about 110 mph — enough to damage several homes about two miles north of Sanborn. About an hour earlier, a separate twister landed near Maple in Douglas County. And early the following morning, on Sunday, another storm blew through the Red Cliff area, leaving scores of trees down and homes without power.

Irene Holly had not yet gone to bed in the early morning hours Saturday because she knew a severe storm was headed her way. When it arrived she heard several large bangs and thumps and a sound like hail striking her roof.

She did not know until later that a number of trees had blown down around the house.

The storm also left her and neighbors without electricity. At one point she saw car lights flash in front of her home and realized something was not right.

"A big pine tree in the front of my house was snapped right in half," she said. When the sun came up, Holly found that one corner of the house had been lifted up partially off the walls.

"Several of my neighbors came over during the day and cut up the trees that came

down," she said. "This community really comes together in times like these," she said.

Up the road from Holly, Bryce Anderson slept as the winds struck at about 2:50 a.m. Saturday.

"I could hear something real soft, whistling through the trees and then it just got louder and louder. It was pretty nuts," he said.

Anderson said he couldn't hear anything but the sound of the wind and at first was unaware that the wood-framed corrugated metal building outside his home was destroyed. The wind also knocked down several trees on his property and peeled back siding on his home. The force of the wind also shattered several large living room windows.

Anderson said the winds appeared to move from southwest to northeast, and were strong enough to toss corrugated metal sheeting from the demolished shed up to a quarter of a mile north on Highway 112.

"I came out and it was completely gone," he said of the building, wondering at the almost undamaged boat and car that remained on the foundation where the shed once stood.

"The boat didn't get a scratch, and the car got maybe three or four small dents in it and that's it," Anderson said.

"At a farm two and a half miles down the road, there was no wind, but here, it was wicked. I haven't felt wind like that, ever," he said.

Anderson's mother, Jaime Anderson, said she was shocked at the damage and was grateful her son was uninjured.

"Things can be replaced," she said.

Anderson's home once belonged to his grandmother and has stood for 72 years without an incident of this kind, he said.

The winds damaged a number of homes belonging to the Anderson family, said Bryce's grandfather, Lyle Anderson.

"It started out with the house of my youngest brother's mother in law, then it hit my brother Jerry's house then it hit my grandson's house and then it hit my brother Steve's house," he said. "This storm really had it in for the Anderson family."

Steve Anderson, whose home is just across Highway 112 from Bryce Anderson, suffered a partially collapsed garage that actually pulled away slightly from the rest of the house. A metal-clad shed a few feet away from the house collapsed in the storm.

Among the most bizarre damage done by the storm was to a car owned by Caryl Peck, which was parked at the Steve Anderson residence. A board, apparently torn from one of the sheds, slammed into the roof of the vehicle, puncturing it like a spear.

"That is just some crazy stuff," Peck said.

Family members and friends arrived at both residences by mid-morning Saturday to lend a hand with the cleanup effort.

"And we wait until Monday for the insurance company to come by, that's all you can do." said Jaime Anderson.

Meanwhile, National Weather Service Meteorologist Lee Britt said information continues to be gathered about the damaging winds. He said whether straight-line winds or a tornado, the violent weather was part of an immense line of thunderstorms that passed through northern Minnesota and Wisconsin early Saturday morning. Britt said thunderstorms would likely reform on Saturday afternoon and into the evening. He said hot humid conditions were giving the storms plenty of fuel to create new disturbances. However this time around it was likely that hail would be the major concern, Britt said.

Ashland WITC to begin live classes in August




Like many students at Ashland's Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College campus, Joe Roman of Bayfield County is anxious to return to classes.

Roman is a licensed merchant marine ship captain, but he made a huge change in his career path and is now a student in the WITC nursing program.

Like other students, he's eager to get back to school — but only if he, his peers and their instructors can do so with minimal risk from coronavirus.

"I want to make sure we are all safe, that proper protocols will be observed," he said.

As a nursing student, it's critical for Roman to be in the classroom, working on techniques and training under the watchful eye of his instructors rather than taking classes online. He and other WITC students resorted to distance learning this spring when the pandemic struck.

"I am in nursing, so in order to fill the positions in nursing, it is definitely necessary to be on campus to do the hands-on stuff," he said.

The same is true for many of the courses at WITC, which has kept administrators working through the summer to map out a plan to bring students back safely.

"We have a combination of learning delivery methods;

virtual learning strategies along with in-person training for certain programs," said WITC Campus Administrator and Vice President of Student Affairs Steve Bitzer.

Bitzer said every class offered by WITC this fall has been examined by the college's deans and faculty to ensure the content will be adequately delivered while ensuring safety for all concerned. Courses that require a physical presence to teach, such as marine repair, machine tool and welding courses, will meet on campus, with all concerned being masked and observing social distancing.

For classes that have some hands-on components, such as nursing, allied health and public safety, both on-campus and virtual learning will be used, Bitzer said. Programs that lend themselves to distance learning, such as business or gerontology, are offered in the student's choice of delivery mode, either online or in a virtual setting similar to an online business conference.

"We have been looking at it course-by-course, making sure there are as many options as possible and as safe as possible, but also providing the content so students can actually learn," Bitzer said.

Bringing students back on campus has required a large amount of adaptation, including spreading students out so that social distancing can be maintained.

The changes have also required considerable gymnastics with scheduling to ensure that not too many students are on campus at any given time.

Students will also meet with counselors and financial aid personnel virtually, while instructors in courses like marine repair have developed video presentations of parts of the course, designed to minimize the need for students to congregate in a classroom.

Bitzer said that style of instruction is more challenging, but it is possible.

"A lot of time people think it is all or nothing, that it is completely video or completely faceto-face. Now with technology, the way to teach effectively is to match the best of both worlds," Bitzer said.

Bitzer said the changes will mean fewer students on campus than have been in the past, maybe 30 or 40 at a time, with classes meeting fewer times a week.

Student activities such as the Halloween party also will be on hiatus.

Nichole Olson, a liberal arts student from Mellen who plans to transfer to a four-year college to become a special education teacher upon completion of her associate's degree, said she's confident that staff has worked out safe plans for the fall.

"I don't have any concerns; the fact that WITC has so many options can really be very helpful," she said.

While much of her coursework will be done via distance learning, she will still have to take one class a week on campus.

"Last year when I would come in and study in the commons area, it wasn't very crowded anyway," she said.

Cable bar closed after COVID-19 test

A Cable-area bar, Ammo's Evergreen Tavern closed for 24 hours Thursday for a "deep bleach cleaning of everything in the building" after an employee tested positive for coronavirus.

The bar posted a Facebook notice Friday that said the employee would not return to work for two weeks. A follow-up test showed the employee was negative.

A reporter's voicemail message left at Ammo's seeking comment was not returned.

Bayfield County Health Officer Sara Wartman would not confirm if an employee had tested positive for COVID-19 but did confirm the tavern had been contacted about a "high" exposure there.

"The business closed down immediately and they were able to work with my environmental health sanitarian over what those cleaning stipulations would be, commonly-touched surfaces, bathrooms, anywhere where there could have been potential exposure was discussed," Wartman said, "And once they had done those things, they were able to open back up" the following day.

Wartman said her department placed no restrictions on the tavern regarding its operations, but asked it to follow the best practices for COVID-19.

"We are asking our establishments to do social distancing or physical distancing of six feet," she said. "We are asking them to use every other seat, but when it comes to bars and restaurants, it is not illegal if they don't comply. It's not breaking the law, but it certainly not best practices right now. We do ask them to follow the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation or WEDC re-open guidelines, but not all establishments are necessarily following those guidelines 100%."

As COVID-19 cases have exploded in the Bay Area in recent weeks, Bayfield County has created a new link on its website, to help keep the public informed of where COVID-19 exposures in public places might have occurred. The intent is to keep residents informed because the health department is not always able to contact everyone who might have been in a public area at a specific place and

time when they might have been exposed to the virus.

"We can't notify 100% of people who have been to a bar or restaurant," Wartman said. "If we can, we will try to, and avoid having to release these establishment's names publicly, but that will not be the case 100% of the time. "

The "community exposure" link offers the name of a business or location, the level of exposure that occurred there and the date and time of the exposure.

Ammo's Evergreen Tavern is listed as "high" with the exposure occurring July 13 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on July 14 from 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Two other establishments are listed with "low" exposure: Morty's Pub in Bayfield from July 9 and Clam Lake Junction Store on July 14.

A "low" level of exposure means there had been a positive patient at the business but the risk of contacting COVID-19 is low or similar to community spread that is occurring in the larger community.

A "moderate" level means there had been a positive at the location and there is a moderate risk of getting COVID. Those exposed should monitor their condition for symptoms and if symptoms develop, they should be tested, but quarantining is not suggested if there are no symptoms.

A "high" level of exposure means there is a "significant risk of contracting COVID-19" for a person who has been "at this location during a specific day and/or time period," and those exposed should quarantine at home and contact their public health department for "follow-up instructions."

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