top 10 magnifying glass Top 10 Weather Events
in 2005

Here is a listing of the Top 10 Weather Events for 2005 in the NWS La Crosse Warning and Forecast Area. This includes areas of southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, and southwest/central Wisconsin.

This listing is the result of voting among NWS La Crosse staff members (13), Emergency Managers (5), and members of the media (5).

Updated: 8/18/14 - tjs

Contact Todd Shea, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, for additional information.

Honorary Mention: Lack of Severe Weather (April / May)

After an early severe weather event (March 30th), the season started very slowly with only 3 warnings issued in all of April and May 2005. The average number of warnings issued in a typical April and May is 19 and 43 respectively. The number of tornadoes nationwide was down in 2005 as well, the lowest since 2002.

10. September 13 Tornado and Severe Thunderstorms

A small tornado, rated F1 on the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale, hit rural parts of northeast La Crosse County, WI as part of a complex of thunderstorms that prompted 18 warnings across the region. The tornado touched down between Holmen and Stevenstown knocking down numerous trees and causing minor damage to a home. A school bus actually became trapped between fallen trees.

In addition, a lightning strike to a radio antenna at the La Crosse National Weather Service damaged a variety of equipment during the event.

september 13 reflectivity image september 13 storm relative velocity image
Base reflectivity for 3:17 p.m. CDT. Velocity image for 3:17 p.m. CDT.

Other severe weather that day included wind gusts to 65 mph at New Hampton, IA and Caledonia, MN. Up to four (4) inches of rain fell within a several county radius around La Crosse producing flash flooding in Spring Grove and La Crescent, MN, as well as West Salem and Galesville, WI.

9. March 30 Tornadoes

A series of small tornadoes touched down in north central Iowa (Mitchell County, IA) to the Iowa-Minnesota border during the afternoon hours of March 30, 2005. The first touchdown was west of Osage, IA causing damage to several cars. The next known touchdown was in and near Stacyville, IA where a barn was demolished and several trees were damaged. The last touchdown was in an open field right on the Iowa-Minnesota state line south of Adams, MN. All tornadoes were rated F0 on the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale.

To review the event summary for March 30th, click here.

march 30 reflectivity image barn damage near Stacyville Iowa
Base reflectivity on March 30th. Damage to a barn in Stacyville, IA.

8. Drought

Drought made headlines again in 2005, and actually reached MODERATE to SEVERE status for part of the year. The effects of drought were worse in Wisconsin and especially Illinois, peaking in this area around mid July. On July 15, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle declared a statewide drought emergency to expedite irrigation relief for farmers. Rainfall in late July and August improved the situation greatly though.

For a look at the national drought map on July 19th, click here.

To see how much rain had fallen in early July, click here.

Click here for the latest (current) drought conditions.

7. Hot Summer thermometer icon

The hottest summer since 1995 - La Crosse, WI had its 7th hottest summer and Rochester had its 9th hottest summer. Throughout the summer, Rochester never recorded a temperature below 50 degrees. This was the first time that had ever occurred.

To see the temperature departure from normal for June 2005, click here.

For local climate data, click here.

6. June 4 Tornadoes tornado icon

Relatively small thunderstorms produced several small tornadoes over parts of north central Wisconsin. One tornado (rated F1 on the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale) had an intermittent path length of 17 miles across rural Clark County, WI. Other touchdowns, in Taylor County, WI, were minor with tree and outbuilding damage.

To review the event summary from June 4th, click here.

june 4 reflectivity image barn damage in rural Clark County
Base reflectivity on June 4th. Damage to a barn in rural Clark County, WI.

A report of a developing wall cloud led to warnings that day and is another great example of how spotters are a major player with National Weather Service warnings.

5. January 1-2 Ice Storm snowman icon

The year started with a winter storm that spread freezing rain and sleet across the area. Many areas reported 1/4" to 1/2" of ice glazing but it was primarily on roads and streets. Because the precipitation was mixed with sleet, ice accumulation on objects like power lines and trees did not cause many problems.

To review the event summary from January 1st-2nd, click here.

ice storm picture

4. January 21-22 Blizzard snowman icon

Ending a busy winter weather month, a winter storm affected the entire region on January 21st and 22nd bringing heavy snow and blizzard conditions. Snow drifts in open areas of southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa were 4-6 feet high. Some of the heavier snow totals were 10.2 inches at Waukon, IA, 10.0 inches at Winona, MN, and 11.3 inches at Black River Falls, WI.

To review the event summary from January 21-22, click here.

jan 22 snow fall

3. May 5-6 Cottonville Wild Firefire icon

The combination of human error and very dry weather led to the largest wild fire in Wisconsin since 1980. A brush burn got out of control as southwest winds developed and relative humidity levels dropped below 20% during the afternoon of May 5th. The fire started near the Cottonville area in central Adams County, WI and quickly spread northeast burning a total of 3,870 acres and destroying or damaging 90 structures.

There were no fatalities but several minor injuries and lots of evacuations.

cottonville fire cottonville fire
Wildfire in central Adams County, WI. Destroyed house after fire.

2. August 18 Tornado Outbreak tornado icon

During the afternoon of August 18th, clusters of severe thunderstorms not only produced six (6) tornadoes in the La Crosse National Weather Service area, but a total of 27 tornadoes in Wisconsin alone. This set a new one-day record for tornadoes in the Badger State.

The first tornado touched down in southeast Minnesota, near Brownsdale, that day. As storms moved east into Wisconsin, they grew stronger and became more organized. Most of the tornadoes and associated damage that day were relatively small, but there was significant damage in Viola, WI (F2) and near Stoughton, WI (F3).

To review the event summary from August 18th, click here.
To see a map of tornadoes in Wisconsin that day (27 total), click here.
To review the event summary from NWS Milwaukee/Sullivan, click here.

damaged home in viola aerial damage in viola
Damaged house in Viola, WI. Aerial shot of damage in Viola, WI, courtesy of the Civil Air Patrol.

1. March 18-19 Heavy Snow

One of the largest winter storms or snow events in years blanketed the region on March 18-19th. A broad area of 10 to 16 inches of snow covered the Upper Mississippi River Valley region with locally higher amounts. Lyle, MN reported a grand total of 24 inches (2 feet!), with 15 inches in Osage, IA and 23 inches in Alma Center, WI.

There was a tight gradient from north to south though so parts of Taylor County, WI had only a few inches. Sustained winds also produced snow drifts up to 5 feet in open country of southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa.

To review the complete event summary from March 18-19, 2005, click here.

heavy snow heavy snow
Snow picture at NWS La Crosse after the storm. Heavy snow in La Crosse County, WI.

Links to previous Top 10: is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.