Colfax tornado causes $1M damage to schools

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COLFAX, Wis. (WEAU) A tornado that swept through Colfax on Friday left most of the town intact, but the school there suffered around $1 million in damages.

The National Weather Service said the tornado was a weak EF1 category with wind speeds of 85 to 90 miles per hour. It was around 100 yards wide at its widest. It said the tornado lasted about five minutes, traveling about 2.5 mph.

The twister went through Colfax around 3:15 Friday afternoon.

“This was about the last thing anybody expected and I think the funnel literally dropped over Colfax about three times at least and it's hard to prepare for that,” Colfax Schools Superintendent Bill Yingst said.

Tommy Anderson of Colfax said he saw it first hand, as a passenger in his co-workers truck.

“We saw a bunch of wind going around in a circle and all of a sudden a bunch of trees flying at us, a calf hutch,” Anderson said.

All caught on the Cenex surveillance camera, Anderson and driver Patrick Boughton saw what was coming and got out of the tornado's path in time to avoid and watch debris flying through, only chipping some paint on the truck.

“Scared and it was kinda cool at the same time,” Anderson said.

Mike Gregory said he was out of town but came home to a mess of tree limbs and branches.

“Had a tree down on top of the house, on the garage,” Gregory said.

“(I’ll) probably get a new shingle job done on the garage and I gotta clean up all (these branches on the lawn) still.”

His neighbor was hit worse, losing about half of the roof on his 123-year-old home, and now dealing with water damage inside.

The Colfax School District saw even more damage.

“Our one big supply and storage shed and one smaller were just completely destroyed,” Yingst said. “Goal posts, backstop to softball field ... our pitching/batting cage area, that was pulled out of the ground.”

The school caught the storm on its security camera and also saw an inch of water inside, drenching carpets and supplies.

“Unofficially, we're definitely in the million dollar range, probably a million plus with the damages,” Yingst said.

But with most of the town still standing, positivity remains too.

“I feel pretty lucky. I got to come home and my house was still here,” Gregory said.

“Everything that was damaged here can definitely be replaced, just lucky nobody was hurt or killed and count our blessings that way,” Yingst said.

People in Colfax said they're thankful this storm wasn't close to the one in in 1958 that killed 12 people and injured many more.

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