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Tornadoes hit Wisconsin, flattening houses

By the CNN Wires Staff
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No fatalities, minor injuries in Wisconsin tornado
  • National Weather Service says three separate tornadoes struck Wisconsin Monday
  • At least 25 homes destroyed, including local fire chief's; many others damaged
  • Only one minor injury reported, no fatalities
  • 48,000 customers lost power; some remain cut off

(CNN) -- The National Weather Service has confirmed that three tornadoes touched down in Wisconsin Monday, including a half-mile-wide, EF2-strength tornado with winds up to 130 mph that cut a five-mile-long path through the southeastern part of the state.

The big twister hit parts of the town of Eagle, population 1,700. A less powerful EF1-strength tornado struck near Muskego and Big Bend, also in Waukesha County. That one traveled about six miles on the ground, with 105 mph winds and a width of 100-200 yards. The storm system that spawned both tornadoes knocked out power for thousands.

A third tornado, a much smaller EF1 twister with 90 mph winds, landed for about a third of a mile in Dane County, near Madison, about 70 miles west of Waukesha County.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle will be coming to the Eagle area Wednesday morning to review the damage, which is "far worse than we thought last night," Waukesha County Sheriff Daniel Trawicki said Tuesday.

After assessing 75 percent of the homes Tuesday morning, emergency crews had found 25 residences leveled and about 100 with moderate damage.

Video: Tornado touches down in Wisconsin
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"Many, many [houses] are still standing, but roofs are gone, garages gone, vehicles tossed all over the place," said Waukesha County Sheriff's spokesman Detective Steve Pederson.

There were no reported deaths and only one minor injury, Trawicki said.

Even the local fire chief's house was ruined, while his family was home and he was at the fire station. Trawicki said the chief's family had been trapped in the house.

"Some homes have been completely demolished, including my own," Eagle Fire Chief Justin Heim told CNN affiliate WTMJ. "My family is obviously traumatized by this. But my family is doing OK. Given the circumstances, they are reacting very normally to a very abnormal situation. It is extremely difficult."

"This is the worst damage I've seen here and I've lived here for a long time," Kristi Stenlund told CNN affiliate WISN.

Trawicki said there were small, minor instances of looting overnight, but no one was taken into custody and "no one currently is expressing concerns. We believe that's been taken care of."

Starting Tuesday night, the sheriff's department is imposing a curfew from 9 p.m. CT through 5 a.m. CT in the area affected by the twister "at least for one evening. We'll extend that if it's necessary," said Trawicki. "During that time, no person will be allowed in or out of the contaminated area."

He said the water supply should be safe.

The situation could have been worse. Pederson said a tornado siren in Eagle either malfunctioned or didn't go off in a timely manner.

The tornado hit Eagle about 9:16 p.m. CT Monday, Trawicki said.

WE Energies, the local power company, said the storms Monday night knocked out power to 48,000 of its customers in Waukesha and surrounding counties. But WE spokesman Rick James said crews worked through the night and all Tuesday morning, and by 2 p.m. fewer than 8,000 were still lacking power.

"Barring another weather event ... we hope to have the people outside the Eagle and Muskego areas on by midnight." James said. Inside those areas, he added, "we're hoping for midday to midnight Wednesday."

There's a slight risk of additional severe storms Tuesday afternoon and evening in southern Wisconsin, said CNN meteorologist Sean Morris. He said if those stronger storms happen, the primary threat would be damaging straight-line winds, with a slight chance of isolated tornadoes.

CNN's Greg Morrison and Mark Morgenstein contributed to this report.