Milwaukee revamps storm response following 'unprecedented' damage

NOW: Milwaukee revamps storm response following ’unprecedented’ damage

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee received more than 1,000 calls for response to storm related damage between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, August 11, between the Milwaukee Fire Department and the Department of Public Works.

"In some fashion this is an unprecedented storm because of the number of people who are reporting downed trees," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski said the storm was stronger than anticipated, and Wednesday night, they will be prepared with specialized task forces.

"Those task forces will be tasked with those runs that made up a huge total amount of last night's runs," Lipski said. "The wires down, the fallen trees, electrical trouble, and everything that trips to being an immediate life or property hazard will get a normal response."

Milwaukee City Forestry said they received 920 calls for tree removal service, and they were only about 5-10 percent finished clearing trees Wednesday afternoon.

"It's very slow-going because we are prioritizing trees that are obviously on structures, on cars, blocking public right of ways, so that takes time to do that type of work," Forestry Manager Randy Krouse said.

Some residents took it upon themselves to help out. Including Milwaukee Tool worker Steve Matson, who got the day off because of power outages, and used his free time to cut trees up with a chainsaw.

"A 16-inch chainsaw is something you always have in the garage but never think you'll need until a tree comes down, so it's been a weird day," Matson said. "Everybody is out of power, so work is kind of off, which means we get to help out the DPW a little bit today."

The south side of Milwaukee saw significant damage as well.

Community members on 20th and Burnham say they were frightened by the storm. Several trees and concrete from the sidewalk were completely ripped out from the ground.

"We were sleeping and then all of a sudden we hear a big, loud noise and then went outside. When we went outside we saw that the tree was falling down and hit the car and automatically I thought oh my God. I thought it was our car and then we got really worried," said Giselle Ramirez, who lives on Burnham.

Ramirez said she has never seen such extensive damage from a storm. Two large trees fell down and one of them smashed a car.

Crews from Milwaukee's Department of Public Works have been on scene all day cleaning up the mess with chainsaws and special machines to break down the trees and haul the big tree trunks.

Some community members in the area say they were without power and Wi-Fi for a few hours and were frightened by the storm, but say they are very grateful to be okay and to see their neighbors are okay.

"There were garbage cans flying, people's pools, people's tents everywhere, chairs flying everywhere. They're just lucky no one got hurt. No one was walking around surprisingly, because there's usually people walking around, so thank God no one got hurt," said Esly Cacho, who lives on Burnham.

It has been a busy day for police, fire and city crews responding to the damage, but they say they don't plan on stopping until everything is picked up in order to keep the city and community safe.

Nobody was seriously injured by Tuesday night's storms. The Milwaukee Fire Department is advising anyone who sees downed power lines to avoid them, and call 911.

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