Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

No siren equals misguided storm logic in Appleton, Wisconsin August 7, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:29 PM
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SHE SHOULD KNOW BETTER. After all, I raised her to respect storms, to head to the basement when the siren sounds.

But early this morning, warning sirens didn’t alert residents of Appleton to the severe storm sweeping through this northeastern Wisconsin city. That’s according to my second daughter, who awakened between midnight and 1 a.m. to strong winds whipping and rattling the vertical blinds in her apartment between Northland Avenue and a residential street on Appleton’s north side, the area hardest hit in this community.

Rather than proceed to the basement, she opened her second floor sliding patio door, retrieved her pepper and other plants from the balcony and crawled back into bed. Her reason: No sirens.

Crazy girl. I taught her to respect severe storms like the one early this morning that produced reported “hurricane force” winds of up to 96 mph in Appleton and the surrounding region.

According to numerous online news sources, strong winds snapped more than 100 power lines and damaged the electrical network and transmission system leaving some 62,000-plus customers initially without power. My daughter is among those. It could take up to three days before power is fully restored to the area, according to information on the City of Appleton website.

Just blocks east of my daughter’s apartment, a section of main arterial Northland Avenue is closed due to downed power lines. Trees are down everywhere, she says, and Hortonville to the northwest of Appleton was especially hard hit. She drove by the town this morning en route to New London to interpret at a medical appointment.

Appleton Medical Center, where my daughter often interprets for Spanish-speaking patients, is reportedly operating on back-up power and is bringing in a second generator from Chicago. Surgeries have been canceled.

Residents in the region are dealing with felled trees and damage to buildings.

The Outagamie County (Appleton rests in part of this county) Emergency Operations Center has been activated, an emergency declaration issued and Red Cross shelters opened in New London and Wrightstown, according to the Outagamie County Facebook page.

The need for “great caution” while traveling in north Appleton, Grand Chute, Kimberly, Little Chute, Hortonville and Freedom is recommended because of downed trees and debris on roadways.

Now, after reading all of that, should my daughter have retreated to the basement of her apartment building during this morning’s storm?

This mom thinks so.

Should the sirens in Appleton have been activated?

This mom thinks so.

WEDNESDAY EVENING UPDATE: According to news reports, the National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-1 tornado in Appleton and an EF-2 tornado in the New London area. See this link:


An additional Red Cross shelter has been opened in Appleton.

As of early this evening, my daughter still did not have power and was preparing to throw food and purchase additional candles and a bigger flashlight. She also is without hot water. She lives near the Northland Mall, which sustained roof damage.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Instead of “Let it snow,” I’m singing, “Don’t let it snow any more” December 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:16 AM
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An edited scene from my home office window before 8 a.m. today.

An edited scene from my home office window before 8 a.m. today.

WHAT I FEARED MAY OCCUR is currently unfolding across the Midwest. Snow. Lots and lots of snow.

The snow in and of itself really is quite lovely, unless you must deal with it, drive in it.

And that’s precisely the problem. I don’t need to tell you that. I expect many of you, like me, are awaiting the arrival of loved ones for Christmas.

My second daughter, who lives 300 miles away in Appleton, Wisconsin, is scheduled to drive to Faribault on Friday, her first trip back since the Fourth of July. I want my girl home for the holidays.

But…the situation in Wisconsin right now is not good with snow and blowing snow creating hazardous travel conditions. Nor is it good in southeastern Minnesota, where blizzard warnings are in effect for as near to me as Steele County, the county right next to my home county of Rice. We’ve gotten perhaps five inches of snow here in Faribault.

Radio announcers are reporting difficult travel along Interstate 35 south of Faribault on into Iowa. The Minnesota Department of Transportation 511 website confirms difficult driving conditions throughout the southeastern region with words like “snow, drifting snow, blowing, slippery.”

Three hundred miles away in Outagamie County, in which Appleton is located, the sheriff’s department has issued a tow ban on US 41, a major north-south freeway linking cities like Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay. My daughter travels US 41 often in her work as a Spanish medical interpreter. It worries me that she may be sent out to some hospital emergency room in an outlying rural community today.

I realize it does no good to worry. But I am a mother, and mothers never stop worrying about their offspring, even when those children are independent adults. Given last week’s tragic loss of 20 children in Sandy Hook, I think we are all especially emotionally vulnerable right now.

WHAT ARE WEATHER and road conditions like in your area? Has the weather changed your holiday travel plans or those of loved ones?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling