Remembering the deadly Barron County tornado, one year later

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the deadly tornado that struck a small town in Barron County. 

Shortly after 5:30 p.m. on May 16, 2017, a tornado touched down in the Prairie Lake Estates trailer park north of the town of Chetek, killing one person and injuring more than two dozen. 

The community is in western Wisconsin, about 110 miles from Minneapolis and 40 miles from Eau Claire. 

46-year-old man Eric Gavin died in the tornado. It destroyed more than 50 trailer homes and caused more than $10 million in damage.

It's the longest on-the-ground tornado ever recorded in Wisconsin. The EF-3 twister traveled through Polk, Barron, Rusk and Price counties, leaving an 84-mile path of destruction. 

It came on a day where tornadoes touched down across the Midwest. They were reported in Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma. 

Dozens of personal stories emerged from the tragic storm. Stories of a man's persistence to survive, families reunited with pets and the struggle of a man who just finished cleaning his property from a prior storm. 

David Sorenson had to drag his chainsaw out for a second time after the tornado threw debris and trees onto his property. Hours before the storm, Sorenson had just finished clearing his yard of debris from a bad storm the year before. Read more of Sorenson's story here

A Barron County man fought for survival when the tornado hit, rushing into a car for shelter. Mark Stefanski was outside his mother’s home when the tornado started charging towards the small community. He had a front row seat as it barreled into the town, and he watched his neighborhood around him get torn apart. Read more of his story here. 

As crews descended on Chetek and Barron County to help, we heard a number of stories of heartwarming pet rescues. The Salvation Army rescued a kitten trapped in debris and brought it to the Humane Society to find it a home. The Red Cross of Wisconsin reported it was able to reunite a family with their beloved pet rabbit Racer. Red Cross crews also heard a dog barking beneath the wreckage and were able to dig him out. Read more about these pet rescue stories here.

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