Janesville58.1°

Storm blows through area

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
August 21, 2010
— The great pumpkin will rise again to crown a silo at Meyer’s Farm Market, its owner said Friday.

A short but violent storm that tore down trees and power lines across parts of the county Friday afternoon also tore the pumpkin from its moorings atop a silo at Meyer’s Farm Market north of Janesville.


Bryan Meyer told a Gazette photographer that he saw the 3,700-pound fiberglass pumpkin fall, land in a parking lot and bounce—where else?—into his pumpkin field.


Meyer said the pumpkin was insured and will be replaced.


The pumpkin has marked the farm at 1329 East Milton-Harmony Townline Road north of Janesville since 2004. It was a landmark for motorists traveling on Interstate 90/39.


The storm blew into Rock County from southwest to northeast starting around 3:30 p.m. Friday, hitting Janesville around 3:45 p.m.


Trees flailed like lilies in the wind.


Much of the damage was in a swath from Beloit Township north to the Milton area, the 911 dispatch center reported.


Winds ripped and tore down a large tent on the grounds of the Rotary Corn Roast at Janesville’s Traxler Park, where workers were making final preparations for today’s festival.


Corn roast Chairman Kurt Saterbak held up the frayed end of a thick rope, which had connected the tent to one of the many large metal spikes that had been driven into the ground.


“It just popped these,” Saterbak said. “I mean, it takes some serious force to shred rope like this.”


The tower at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport reported gusts of 67 to 71 mph.


The other six tents on the grounds survived, but some were slightly tilted. The damaged tent was the one designated for corn distribution.


The tent supplier pledged to have a new tent erected in time for the roast to begin this morning at 8.


Saterbak said workers ran from one tent to another and finally sought shelter in their cars as the storm worsened.


The Janesville Gazette’s downtown rain gauge registered only 0.1 inch of rain during the storm.


The Janesville Fire Department reported that a gust of wind blew through open doors in the auto-service area at Walmart, tearing out a 3-by-5-foot ventilation unit that was mounted on the roof. As the unit moved, it damaged a gas line, which leaked.


The building was evacuated for a short time, and Alliant Energy was called to repair the leak. No one was injured.


Among other damage, a hickory tree fell and poked a hole in the roof of Stan Milam’s house in Janesville. The news came as Milam was celebrating his last day on the job as WCLO radio talk-show host.


Milam said everything was under control, with a tarp temporarily keeping his house dry. Not to worry, he joked, “it’s only money.”


A Whitewater police dispatcher reported brief street flooding and a few trees and power lines down.


Damage in the rest of Walworth County was unknown. A dispatcher there said she could not comment on any damage that might have occurred and declined to let a reporter talk to anyone who could elaborate.


Green and Jefferson counties reported some trees and branches down and associated power problems.



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