Deerfield storm 1

Deerfield residents examine damage to International Machinery Exchange, 214 N. Main St., after an apparent tornado touched down Thursday afternoon.

What the National Weather Service called a "brief" tornado in the village of Deerfield tore the roof off a machinery refurbishing company’s warehouse Thursday afternoon.

International Machinery Exchange, 214 N. Main St., which specializes in refurbishing dairy equipment, bore the brunt of the damage from the tornado that briefly touched down in the village about 20 miles east of Madison. The high winds also knocked down tree branches — some of which landed on a home — and damaged a local park playground.

“It’s pretty intense damage,” said Jeff Klemp, vice president and general manager of IME.

The roof was ripped away from half of the building, letting rain fall onto delicate equipment, Klemp said, and debris was strewn across the company’s 10 acres of land.

Several fire departments and the Dane County Sheriff’s Office assessed the damage at IME and the surrounding area. Lt. Krista Ewers-Hayes said the 200 block of North Main Street had been evacuated because of a resulting gas leak at IME.

No injuries were reported and gas to the area was shut off, Ewers-Hayes said.

Ty Vaughn, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said Thursday it appeared that a tornado briefly touched down, and the Weather Service confirmed that it was a tornado on Friday morning.

Authorities started getting reports of damage at about 3:50 p.m.

Klemp said he could feel his ears popping as the winds whipped through the area.

“We heard the storm, and the next thing we knew the roof was gone,” he said.

Paul Nehring, the logistics manager at IME, said the main crew’s shift ended about half an hour before the tornado hit. Nehring said he was in the warehouse locking up when the winds began to rattle the garage door and he took cover in a storage area.

“I just ducked,” Nehring said.

Deerfield storm 2

Ole Olson, of Lake Mills, surveys the damage to his parent's home in Deerfield after a possible tornado moved through the village's downtown Thursday, knocking a tree onto the home.

When he left his shelter, Nehring said, he could stand in the warehouse and look up to see the sky.

“I’m glad no one else was around,” Nehring said.

Klemp said no one at IME was injured. Three gas lines that lead to the building were broken and the electricity had been shut off, he said.

Arne Schulz, owner of the Rail House bar, which is just across the Glacial Drumlin Bike Trail from IME, said his business wasn’t damaged by the storm.

He said he had no idea that potentially dangerous weather was moving through until a patron looked out a window and told him that there was a tornado outside.

When Schulz looked outside, he said what he saw was “definitely a tornado.”

He said the high winds had caused things like tree branches and even large stainless steel tanks from IME to go soaring in the air.

“Everything was flying,” Schulz said.

Hail preceded the damaging winds, he said.

Schulz said he could see on the weather radar that some rain and possible stormy weather was going to move through Deerfield, but there had been no indication, such as a storm warning or siren, that it would be severe.

“We heard nothing,” Schulz said.

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Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.