Live

Watch CBSN Live

Tornado Rips Through Wisconsin

The sky "just exploded" as a tornado killed one person and injured several others.

"I came out and you could see the funnel very clearly heading away from us, and then that funnel went up and actually another tornado touched down right next to it," Stoughton resident Dick Cowan told CBS News Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "So there were actually two tornadoes that we saw.

"I didn't realize the extent of it until I saw my neighbor's house, which was basically leveled to the ground. And my neighbors and I went to survey the area, and see if we could locate everybody and make a count for everybody," Cowan said. "One of our neighbors didn't make it out."

Harold Orlofske, 54, apparently died of injuries sustained during the collapse of his home north of Stoughton when the twister touched down Thursday evening, Dane County Coroner John Stanley said.

At least five other people were hospitalized, state emergency management spokeswoman Lori Getter said.

Fifteen homes were leveled and 30 others had moderate to severe damage in Stoughton.

CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports that the storm, which spun off as many as 25 tornadoes as it crossed the state, comes toward the end of an unusually kind tornado season. Overall the number of twisters has been near average, but there have been far fewer deaths — only six, including the one here yesterday.

Bowers reports that while many families are devastated by losing their homes, Stoughton resident Betsy McClinton feels fortunate that she didn't lose her family.

"Although she will truly miss the pictures of her little girls that got destroyed in the storm, she knows she still has the girls and she can always take more snapshots," Bowers reports.

The storms also caused extensive damage in the village of Viola, in southwestern Wisconsin. Three people there were hospitalized and about 70 to 80 homes were damaged, Getter said.

"There's houses half gone. All the trees in town are gone," said Bill Bender, owner of the Viola Quick Stop. "There was stuff flying by the building, like big chunks."

Governor Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency Friday in Dane and Richland counties, the two hardest hit by Thursday's storms. The order directs state agencies to help local governments in cleaning up.

Bowers reports that Gregory Tripoli, a meteorology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, sent his student storm teams out toward LaCrosse to capture the twisters on cameras.

"Tripoli said while he really felt for the people in the teeth of the storm, he knew what he and his students were doing would save lives in the future," Bowers reports.

The National Weather Service is investigating reports of 18 possible tornadoes around the state, spokesman Greg Davis said.

A witness captured the tornado on his camera phone.

"The sky just exploded. It was debris everywhere," said David Murray, 43. "When it went across the road and it hit all the houses over there ... it was something you can't explain."

Murray said he was going from Stoughton to his home nearby "and, bam, it was there, and it grew and it grew." He and others helped tend to the injured.

Lenny Peaslee, executive chef at the Stoughton Country Club, said the twister tore the roof off as about 40 people took refuge in the basement.

"We were ... hiding behind the bar," he said. "We had beer, anyway."

View CBS News In