When you mention strong and violent tornadoes, you don’t often think of them ripping across the Wisconsin landscape.
While it is true that most tornadoes in our state and within Northeast Wisconsin tend to be weak, we’re not immune from nature’s strongest tornadoes.
New Richmond, Colfax, Barneveld, and Oakfield are four Wisconsin communities that have all felt the wrath of scale-topping twisters.
In New Richmond in 1899, a suspected F-5 nearly leveled a three-story solid brick building and also claimed more than 100 lives.
An F-5 in 1958 in Colfax left mangled cars strewn about what was left of the town and twisted a steel beam bridge apart; 21 people died.
Barneveld in 1984 would be the next victim of an F-5, which arrived in the early morning hours while many residents still slept, 9 of which would never wake up.
And most recently, an F-5 struck Oakfield in Fond du Lac County in 1996.
While one of the narrowest F-5 tornadoes on record, it produced incredible damage nonetheless, carrying cans from the leveled Friday Canning Company over 50 miles away and dropping canceled checks from Oakfield on the other side of Lake Michigan.
Thankfully, unlike the other tornadoes, no lives were lost.
This is all to illustrate the point that while these destructive, unstoppable forces of nature may not be common here, we are not immune.
When you compare the damage you just saw in Wisconsin to damage from the Moore, Oklahoma EF-5 just last year for example, there’s not much of a difference.
This potential for large, destructive tornadoes here in Wisconsin is why you need to take every tornado warning and every severe thunderstorm warning as seriously as the one before and the next one after that.
It’s only a matter of time before the next EF-5 writes its own chapter in Wisconsin’s wide weather history.