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Residents rebuild after fatal tornado (UPDATE)

CHETEK, Wis. (AP) — Residents in western Wisconsin are slowly recovering from a tornado that killed one person, injured 25 and caused at least $10 million in damage.

The Leader-Telegram reports that a tornado with wind speeds estimated at 140 mph went through Polk, Barron, Rusk and Price counties on May 16.

“I think the recovery efforts are going great,” said Chris Fitzgerald, sheriff of Barron County. “Cleanup efforts are still continuing, but it’s getting cleaned up.”

Fitzgerald said a long-term recovery committee will announce plans for distributing money collected as part of a $1 million challenge grant started by the philanthropist Foster Friess of Rice Lake.

The committee’s priority is finding long-term housing for those who’ve lost their homes, said Ashley Rayment, outreach director of Red Cedar Church.

Most of the displaced residents have already found long-term housing, said Stacey Frolik, director of the Barron County Health and Human Services Department.

“Our community really came together on this and pitched in at every level they could to help victims, to make sure their neighbors were taken care of,” Frolik said.

Officials said the Prairie Lake Estates trailer park in Chetek suffered some of the greatest damage. The tornado destroyed 38 of the park’s nearly 50 mobile homes.

About 90 percent of the park has been cleaned up, although some severely damaged homes remain as insurance claims are finalized, said Darrin Seever, the son of Prairie Lake Estates owner Elvina Gagner.

Shasta Westaby’s mobile home was among those destroyed. She’s been staying at a friend’s house with her 8-year-old daughter since the storm, but is scheduled to close on a house in Rice Lake this week. Westaby said she’s particularly excited to have a basement in her new home.

“That was a must-have for me,” she said. “I needed the comfort of a basement.”

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