The National Weather Service confirms the storms that pounded northeastern Wisconsin overnight included two tornadoes.
The weather service says an EF-2 tornado with winds estimated at over 110 mph struck New London in Waupaca County just before 12:30 a.m., causing significant damage to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, then continued southeast toward Hortonville, where hundreds of homes sustained damage from snapped and uprooted trees.
WBAY-TV also reports the weather service says an EF-1 tornado with winds of 100 to 110 mph struck Brown County 25 minutes later, near Kaukauna. It caused heavy damage to two barns and numerous trees as it continued into Calumet County, blowing down two metal truss towers.
The weather service says both tornadoes were embedded in storms that packed powerful straight-line winds as well.
Downed trees and other debris are slowing down restoration of electricity to tens of thousands of people affected by the storm.
We Energies spokeswoman Cathy Schulze says about 53,000 customers were without power at one point Wednesday, mostly in Outagamie County, after three substations were damaged. The number was at about 48,000 Wednesday afternoon. She says it could take several days before power is restored to everyone.
Wisconsin Public Service spokesman Todd Steffen says about 18,000 customers mostly in Brown, Calumet and Manitowoc counties lost power around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, but by the afternoon it was down to about 6,300.
He expects most to be restored by day's end but some may not be restored until Thursday. He says more than 100 damaged poles need to be replaced.
“We have assessment teams out right now checking every structure we possibly can but we don’t want to miss anyone out there so please check on them, make sure they’re all right because there is severe damage,” said Captain Jeff Sanborn with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.
Around 200 crews responded to help residents clean up and get electricity back. There’s about $2.1 million in damage in Brown County alone.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will visit northeastern Wisconsin on Thursday morning to tour the damage from powerful storms that hit the area.
Walker will speak to reporters afterward at 7:50 a.m. at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in New London, which was destroyed by an EF-2 tornado.
Thunderstorms packing straight-line winds of more than 100 mph and two tornadoes early Wednesday caused at least one weather-related fatality, destroyed the church, barns and other buildings and cut power for what could be days to tens of thousands of people.