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Storm knocks out power for entire island, residents clean up destruction days later

Posted at 7:44 PM, May 24, 2024

WASHINGTON ISLAND (NBC 26) — Tuesday night's storm made all of Washington Island lose power. Hundreds of trees are down and property, like roofs and barns, are damaged or destroyed.

  • See how two trees fell on one man's roof and how one barn built in the 1800s was flattened by strong winds Tuesday night
  • Severe weather earlier this week knocked out power for all of Washington Island
  • The National Weather Service cannot confirm whether or not a tornado touched down on the island
  • The NWS is now considering whether to conduct a survey of Washington Island

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story with additional details for the web.)

Wood and hay completely crushed under the roof of this 200-year-old barn. I'm Pari Apostolakos reporting on Washington Island where people are cleaning up after the devastation of Tuesday's storm.

Matt Reese returned to his home after Tuesday night's storm to find not one, but two trees had fallen on his roof.

"Oh no, that's my house," he said when he received a text message from a neighbor with a photo.

He doesn't know the extent of the damage and he imagines it'll take a long time to get the limbs and trunks cleared away, even with help from neighbors.

"The nice thing about the island is everyone kind of looks after each other," Reese said.

Amy Jorgenson, who lives next door to Reese, sent our newsroom photos of the dozens of trees uprooted, snapped, or fallen in her yard.

"I was painting in my house [the night of the storm] and I had a window a little cracked open and [I heard] lightning and thunder and rain, and then all of a sudden this wind started and it was a sound I'd never heard before," Jorgenson said.

Her home was untouched during the storm. But, she feels the loss of the trees, some of which she says were more than 100 years old.

"When I saw it [at] 5:30 in the morning I was on the phone with my daughter and I just, I was like, 'Oh there's trees down, it's bad,' and I came out to here and I just cried," she said while giving me a tour of her property.

Washington Island Police Officer Gary Schultz was responding to a 9-1-1 call about a tree falling on a home Tuesday night when another fallen tree blocked the first responders' path.

He says he's never seen a storm like this.

"The worst one I've seen in 15 years of being up here," Schultz said.

"We lost power at about 10:30 at night," Washington Island Electric Cooperative Manager Robert Cornell said. He said at one point the entire island lost electricity, but some power was restored by 2 or 3 a.m. Wednesday.

His crews have been working for days to repair downed lines and clear roadways.

"There's a definite path from the south end of the island to the north end of the island where most of the damage is," Cornell said.

The National Weather Service says they can confirm strong winds hit the island. It's unclear if it was a tornado. The NWS is still deciding whether or not to conduct a survey.

"We got hit and we'd love to know what it is," Jorgenson said. "We want to know what did this much damage."

Cornell says the entire island should have power restored by Tuesday or Wednesday next week. On Washington Island Pari Apostolakos NBC 26.