Neighbors helping neighbors: Barron County rebuilds after tornado

Posted at 11:13 AM, May 19, 2017

As people work on picking up the pieces of their life from the EF-2 tornado in northern Wisconsin, many say the damage is too much to handle on their own.

In Chetek, friends and strangers are taking up the effort to rebuild. The damage in some people's homes and properties is so extensive that it's amazing to many they were unhurt. One couple, Denise and Mark Stefanski, say they are still shaken by what happened.  

"It was just the scariest noise that I won't ever forget," said Denise Stefanski.

"The wind just...I didn't know when it was going to stop," said Mark Stefanski.

The husband and wife rode out the tornado apart from each other. Denise in their basement, Mark next door, in his car. Both were thinking of the other as the tornado touched down.

"Just praying to God that we would be okay," said Denise.

"I didn't know if she was going to make it," said Mark.

But they survived, though their property was ripped apart.

Chetek is a place where neighbors help neighbors, but with everyone around them facing the same devastation, some help came from their friends in the Amish community.

"My husband talks to them a lot and my father-in-law did and stuff so they kind of know us," said Denise.

Everyone pitched in to try to clean up.

"We do little by little and hopefully we have some normalcy," said Denise.

Even though they say it will take weeks or months to get everything back together, they are grateful for what they have.

"Compared to the trailer court that got hit, the one guy who lost his life, yes I feel very lucky," said Denise.

The Stefanskis felt extra lucky Thursday night.  For the first since the tornado hit, power is back on. That means they got to have a hot shower and a warm meal for the first time in two days.

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