Crews still responding to emergency calls on Thursday

By Brandi Makuski

Emergency crews have spent much of Thursday so far responding to fire calls.

Wisconsin Public Service is reporting that as of noon on June 16, 1,981 customers were still without power—down from the 6,000 outages on Thursday morning. The agency is estimating some customers won’t have power restored until noon on June 17.

Assistant EMS Chief Joe Gemza from the Stevens Point Fire Department said his crews have been called out in spurts.

“It’s kind of the same as last night right now,” Gemza said late Thursday morning.  “Basically, in the last couple of hours, power is out in much of the city. The wind is blowing trees that were damaged in last night’s storm, they’re starting to tip and we’re starting to see more fire runs based on them hitting the poles.”

Gemza said to his knowledge there were no fatalities or serious injuries from the storm or its aftermath.

“It’s been really sporadic. We had quite a few runs last night, then it slowed down, and this morning it started to ramp back up,” he said.

The chaos created by the back-to-back calls is what crews at SPFD train for regularly, Gemza said.

“This is a day-to-day thing for us; it’s no different than any other storm system that we have. I’m not trying to downplay it, but this is what we train for.”

Gemza said if power outages continue much longer, he anticipates an uptick in calls for medical assistance, particularly from residents who rely on oxygen or refrigerated medications.

Bob Weinert, director of Portage Co.Emergency Management, spent several hours in the emergency operations center Wednesday night observing the storm via satellite. The EOC is the headquarters from where county-wide resources are managed during a time of crisis.

“There are scattered issues, some power lines affected and WPS is still working on that. But I haven’t heard about any major property damages. I was surprised there wasn’t any hail. We actually fared really well,” Weinert said, adding that scanner traffic on the public safety channel made the storm and its aftermath sound worse than they actually were.

“We really dodged a bullet,” Weinert said.

What had been a tornado near Lake Wazeecha in Wood Co. dissolved and turned into “more of a wind event,” according to WAOW’s Justin Lowe, just before it entered the Stevens Point area. He estimated 65- to 70-mile-an-hour winds were present when the storm hit Portage Co. According to the National Weather Service in Green Bay, Portage Co. received just under one inch of rain in about 20 minutes.