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Survivors of Chetek tornado speak out one year later

CHETEK, Wis. (CBS 58) – A year after a deadly tornado hit Chetek, Wisconsin, many of the survivors are remembering the storm and its aftermath like it was yesterday.

 In that year there has been both physical and emotional healing and those that made it through the tornado are now sharing their stories.

In four minutes, four lives changed. At the Prairie Lakes Estate mobile home park, Kathy Nelson was caught in the middle of the EF3 twister.

“And then the electricity went out and I said ‘Colton, grab the dogs, get in the bathroom, get in the tub. Let’s close the door and let’s hope,’” said Kathy Nelson.

Eric Gavin died at the Prairie Lakes Estate mobile home park. Tammy and Kathy Nelson say he was a good neighbor.

“We had wood pillars going down the sides of the driveway to block it in and he’d come pull me out,” said Tammy Nelson.

Shasta Westeby lived a few trailers down from the Nelsons. The single mother was in town when the tornado hit and returned home to find her home destroyed.


“Hit my knees, balled, because I’m like, I was not finding my house. My house is gone,” Westaby recalled.

Westaby was a home daycare provider so when she lost her house, she lost her job as well.

“How am I going to tell my child we don’t have a home anymore? And yeah, it was tough. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to tell somebody,” Westaby told CBS 58.

Mick Howland rushed from home to home to shut off gas tanks and thwart an explosion. That’s when a tree fell on top of him.

“I don’t’ know how I got across there but I remember going over there and shutting off the tank. On the way back, I got hindered when a tree fell on me. The wind was still blowing 60 to 65 miles an hour. I could see the tornado still heading east,” Howland said.

Howland broke his back, hip, and skull in multiple places. He was bleeding internally when rescuers got to him. He believes he would have died if his dog weren’t with him.

“I had called them at five probably about 5:45, something like that. Didn’t get to me ‘til after dark and then they couldn’t find me. They found me because my dog was barking,” Howland said.


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