Worst natural disaster in decades

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Brian Sladek of the damage caused by Sunday night’s storms. “This is the most devastating natural disaster I’ve seen in all my years.” Sladek has been in emergency management and previously law enforcement in Lincoln County since 1976.
An apparent tornado cut a swath through the city of Merrill and neighboring townships Sunday evening, leveling houses, felling trees and leaving a path of destruction in its wake.
Emergency responders are coordinating efforts at a command post set up at Hillside Cathedral on Pier Street. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department is in charge of incident command.
Sladek and a team of four emergency management directors from other counties and a regional director were preparing Monday to conduct a damage assessment from the ground and the air. Determining the extent of the damage will be important in applying for disaster grants available through the state and federal government.
“There are a number of different sources of funding and reimbursement that we’ll be taking a look at,” Sladek said. “The damage assessment is critical in being able to access those funding sources.”
To make matters worse, heavy rains have created flooding conditions in the Merrill area, with roads and bridges being washed out by high water.
Law enforcement is limiting access to some areas hardest hit by the tornado Monday morning.
“Site security is very important,” Sladek said. “They need to keep people out of the damaged areas as much as possible.”
As of Monday morning, two injuries had been attributed to the storm.

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