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MARTELL TOUCHDOWN: Tornado strikes rural Pierce County; 1 reported injured

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Town of Martell resident Warren Houdek surveys damage at his 760th Street property after it was struck by a tornado July 28. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 9
Ellsworth School District Superintendent Barry Cain's home was among several destroyed June 28 by a tornado that struck the town of Martell. He's shown here talking with insurance agent Denton Achenbach. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 9
Town of Martell resident Warren Houdek surveys damage at his 760th Street property after it was struck by a tornado July 28. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 9
Community members rushed to help at several properties in the town of Martell following a tornado strike, including the Knutson Family Farm, the barn of which was destroyed in the storm. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 9
Town of Martell resident Warren Houdek surveys damage at his 760th Street property after it was struck by a tornado July 28. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 9
The Knutson Family Farm barn on 610th Street was flattened after a tornado struck the town of Martell on June 28. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia7 / 9
Derrick Budd dodges fallen treetops along 650th Street in the town of Martell after a tornado struck the area. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia8 / 9
A tornado blew Barry Cain's Ford F-150 out the side of his garage and into his front yard June 28. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia9 / 9

TOWN OF MARTELL — At least one person was injured after a fast-developing storm produced a tornado that destroyed numerous buildings Wednesday, June 28, in rural Ellsworth.

Authorities said a tornado cut an estimated 10-mile path in the town of Martell, where officials were busy assessing damage in the area.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jason Matthys said the tornado was “fairly extensive.” He said it hopped north of the town of El Paso before touching down again south of Spring Valley High School.

Deputies were going house-by-house to check on residents and to assess damage.

Matthys said that while the damage left in the tornado’s wake was substantial, he was grateful it didn’t strike a more heavily populated area.

“Thank goodness it’s in a rural path,” he said.

The storm destroyed at least two barns, one of which partially collapsed and left a man injured at a farm on 610th Street. Kevin Knutson of Knutson Family Farms identified the injured man as Zach Knutson, who was reportedly transported by ambulance after experiencing concussion symptoms.

The tornado struck the area at about 4:30 p.m. — around the same time as Pierce County 911 dispatchers were heard issuing a tornado warning.

Warren Houdek, who runs the Johnson farm on 760th Street in the town of Martell said he was home at the time it struck, destroying multiple buildings and the 108-year-old barn on the property.

Houdek said he was watching a news report when the TV cut out. That, he said, was the first warning.

He said he looked out from his now-destroyed porch and could see a twister off to the west — just as a tornado alert sounded on his phone. He got downstairs just in time and rode out the tornado strike there.

“The house was just shaking,” he said.

Community members were arriving in pickup after pickup at the Knutson farm, as well as Barry Cain’s home on 650th Street.

Cain, Ellsworth School District’s superintendent, was busy assessing damage at his home with insurance agent Denton Achenbach, where much was destroyed.

The property appeared to take a direct hit from the storm, which destroyed Cain’s garage and forced a Ford F-150 pickup out of his garage and out onto a slope on his front yard.

Cain said he and his wife had just returned home from grocery shopping when they noticed heavy wind and soon dashed downstairs.

The family found recently purchased blocks of cheese strewn in the front yard along with shingles from the garage.

In addition to the home, the tornado completely destroyed a shed, which Cain said he could see nearly a mile away in a neighboring field.

Just down the road from the Cains was Derrick Budd, a town of El Paso resident who’d arrived at his friend’s house on 650th Street about five minutes before the tornado hit.

“All hell broke loose,” he said. “I didn’t have time to make the root cellar.”

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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