Part 1: Siren, WI Ten Years After The Storm

By KBJR News 1

June 16, 2011 Updated Jun 16, 2011 at 10:35 AM CDT

Posted by Melissa Burlaga

Siren, WI (Northland's NewsCenter) Ten years ago this weekend, the town of Siren, Wisconsin and several neighboring communities were hit hard by a large tornado.

A decade later, the people of that region are pondering the past by preparing a memorial commemoration.

Dave Anderson has details.

June 18th, 2001 was a hot and humid day in western Wisconsin; perfect conditions for severe weather.

At eight in the evening, a storm cloud spawned an F3 tornado that would tear through several communities in a life span of an hour.

The twister hit Wood River, Daniels, Siren, Lafollette, Dewey and Bashaw before dieing near Spooner.

Ten years ago, Don Taylor was chief deputy for Burnett County.

"I responded after the softball sized hail at my house. I live about two miles north of the path of the tornado."

While Deputy Taylor was rushing to respond to duty, Siren Police Chief Dean Roland was driving through town, warning people of the tornado with his bull horn.

The civil defense siren had been hit by lightning two months before and wasn't working.

Kent Boyer and his sister Kara, co-owners of the Dairy Queen, were caught looking the wrong way when the twister came.

"Most of the time the weather moves from west to east here so we were looking out the back door expecting to see something and all of a sudden the front window broke and we all headed to the cooler."

Across the street at the Pour House Bar, patrons saw the cloud coming and sought shelter in the beer cooler.

The tornado split the building in two.

"It was a weird feeling because it was something I'd never seen before so it was total chaos and a disaster."

The disaster struck businesses, homes and farms alike; wrecking 205 buildings with 200 mile per hour winds.

"Items from a home in the town of Daniels that were on a refrigerator were found on the golf course in Hayward."

That's 50 or 60 miles away.

The storm caused an estimated ten million dollars in physical damage and worse, took three lives.

"Tom Hazeltine, Ruth Schulz and Selvin Stillreich all died as a result of the tornado."

Ten years later, the names of the three people lost still bring tears to the eyes of those who remember.

Despite the shock of the devastating tornado on the night of June 18th, 2001, people pulled together on the morning of the 19th to begin rebuilding the Siren region.