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Kaley Poegel, right, removes fallen branches Wednesday from a hill at Swift Falls Cemetery, as her daughter, Emma, 1, looks on. "Everyone helps out. That's what I like about it," Poegel said after residents of the town of 74 people began cleaning debris left by Tuesday's twister. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

In Swift County, everyone doing their part following tornado

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SWIFT FALLS -- A park was heavily damaged Tuesday in a tornado that plowed through the southern part of Swift County.

As many as 200 trees may have been snapped off or uprooted at the county park, located in Swift Falls. The newest shelter was also damaged.

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"It's bad," said Mike Johnson, supervisor of Swift County Parks, Drainage and Wetlands.

Johnson was busy with a chainsaw Wednesday morning, along with other employees from his department and the county highway department.

Bulldozers and backhoes dumped mangled trees into trucks.

A steady buzz of chainsaws could be heard throughout the park, located on the banks of the Chippewa River.

Because it's difficult to quarantine the park, crews were attempting to make it safe by removing trees that posed an immediate danger, Johnson said.

Many of the large trees in the park were ripped from the ground. Some were toppled over the river, walking bridges, shelters and playground equipment. Johnson is thankful the tornado didn't hit during a weekend, when the park is usually full of campers. "It would've been a disaster," he said.

The park will be closed at least this weekend. It's possible it may reopen for the July 24-26 weekend.

When the cleanup is completed, the once heavily wooded park will look different. "It'll be more wide open," said Johnson, adding that the park is "the pride and joy of this little village here."

Just up the hill at the Swift Falls Cemetery, Kaley Poegel was picking up branches that had fallen on grave sites as her children, Emma, 1, and Thomas, 3½, watched.

Early Wednesday morning, Poegel was at the Camp Lake Townhall where the community leaders meet for coffee every day. A plan was made about where volunteers should go to help with the cleanup in the town of about 74 people.

"It's a small town and the word gets out," said Poegel. "Everyone helps out. That's what I like about it."

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