Tornadoes in northeast Iowa, southeast Minnesota, and southwest and central Wisconsin
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Background Information
Statistics (1850-Present)
Records (1850-Present)

Ten Deadliest Tornadoes
in Southeast Minnesota, Northeast Iowa, & Western Wisconsin
1850 to Present
Rank
Deaths
Date Time Location Counties 
Affected
Length
(miles)
Width
(yards)
Injuries
F-Scale
1 37 8/21/1883 1730 CST Hayfield 4NW to Rochester Dodge, MN
Olmsted, MN
25
1500
200
F5
  The tornado moved east northeast from 4 miles northwest of Hayfield passing through and devastating Rochester.  At least 10 of the 40 farms hits in Dodge County were leveled and at least 5 people were killed.  The enormous roar was said to have warned most Rochester residents as the massive tornado cut through the north side of town.  Over 135 homes were destroyed and another 200 damaged.  Many of the injuries were very serious and other deaths probably occurred, but are not listed in the total.  The tornado derailed a train causing many injuries.  At least one crew member was killed.  This tornado was a large factor in the subsequent development of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.  Total damage was estimated ay $700,000.
2 22 6/28/1865 1600 CST Viroqua to just south of Rockton Vernon, WI
30
300
100
?
  Moved east northeast from southwest of Viroqua (devastating the southern part of that town) and then moved south of Rockton before dissipating to a six-mile wide downburst near the Juneau County line.  Approaching Viroqua, the funnel was accompanied by a "branch whirl holding on like a parasite."  Multiple vortex "branches" and "eddies" were observed as the tornado passed through the town.  "Death rode upon that sulphury siroc" as "the angry elements at the beck of an invisible power lay waste the fairest portion of the village."  Ten people were killed on one street.  A death total of 17 is usually given for this tornado, but according to the History of Vernon County at least 13 people were killed in Viroqua and as many as 12 others may have died later from injuries.  The tornado was moving at an estimated 60 mph, as it approached a schoolhouse 2 miles east of Viroqua containing a teacher and 24 students.  The building was lifted into the air "and dashed to ground", killing the teacher and eight students.  Foot-square timbers were carried "long distances; tree tops were filled with feather beds, chairs, and clothing.  All kinds of livestock were either dead or writhing on the points of broken branches; 20-ton rocks were rolled, lifted, and broken.
3 18 9/21/1924
1430 CST
Augusta 2ESE to Chelsea 2N Clark, WI
Eau Claire, WI 
Taylor, WI
65
400
50
F4
  What was probably a family of tornadoes moved northeast from near Augusta (Eau Claire County) to 10 miles southwest of Thorp (Clark County) to north of Chelsea (Taylor Co.). Near Rib Lake, at least 20 farms were destroyed or altogether obliterated. Thirty other farms were damaged. Fourteen people were killed in Clark County and four in Taylor County. The lack of alignment in the positions of destroyed farms, in the Withee-Thorp-Owen area hint strongly that more than one tornado was involved. Four people died and 13 were injured in that area at a Sunday School meeting in a farm house. One entire wall of a home was reportedly carried for 14 miles. Damage may have been F5 intensity 4 miles south of Thorp and north of Withee near the county border. Damage estimates were $229,000.
4 16  9/21/1894 2030 CST  Mason City (IA) 5NE to Spring Valley (MN) Cerro Gordo, IA
Fillmore, MN
Mitchell, IA
Mower, MN 
60  800  70  F4 
  This tornado moved northeast from 5 miles northeast of Mason City, Iowa killing at least 3 people in northeast Cerro Gordo County.  At least four people died in homes 4 miles northeast of Osage as 13 farm houses wee destroyed in that county.  At  Leroy, Minnesota, damage totalled $120,000 as four people were killed and 80 buildings were damaged or destroyed including 35 homes.  Entire farms were leveled southwest of Spring Vally.  Ten homes were destroyed, five people killed and 35 injured in the northwest part of Spring Valley as losses there totalled $60,000.
5 13  5/15/1968  1510-1600 CST  Hansell 1NE to Chester 2S Butler, IA
Chickasaw, IA
Floyd, IA
Franklin, IA
Howard, IA
65  400  462  F5 
  Moved northeast from north of Hansell, passing east of Aredale, west of Greene, east of Marble Rock, and devastating Charles City. The tornado grew larger and more intense as it approached Charles City. The huge funnel passed directly through town, destroying 337 homes, and causing about $30 million in damage. The tornado continued to the northeast hitting Elma and causing another $1.5 million in damages. From there the tornado turned to the north and dissipated south of Chester, 4 miles south of the Minnesota border. Nearly 2000 homes were damaged or destroyed. All 13 deaths occurred in Floyd County. 450 injuries were reported in Floyd County and 12 injuries in Howard County.
6  11 7/3/1907  1700 CST  Neillsville 12SW to Elroy 1NE Clark, WI
Jackson, WI
Juneau, WI
Monroe, WI
Sauk, WI
55  800  40   F4
   Most likely a family of tornadoes, they tracked south-southeast crossing a total of 4 counties. At least 20 homes were leveled.  Three people were killed just outside of Oakdale (Monroe Co.) A hundred people were left homeless in town. Four people died at "Tunnel Siding" north of Elroy. At least four, and possibly six, people were killed north of Tomah.
7  9 6/22/1944  1900 CST  Fennimore to Freeport 10ENE (IL) Grant, WI
Lafayette, WI
Stephenson, IL 
80  800  78  F4 
  Moved southeast from near Fennimore into northern Illinois. Seven people were killed and 65 were injured in Grant County with $1 million in damage. The people were killed in three homes, all in the Belmont area of Lafayette County. Four people died in town and three in a single farm house southeast of town. About 25 homes and 60 barns were destroyed. Most of the injuries occurred at the south edge of Belmont, as 16 homes were destroyed. In Illinois, 66 farms lost barns and 21 homes were destroyed. One man was killed in a trailer near Winslow (IL), and a woman was killed as her home was leveled 3 miles northeast of Cedarville. Hundreds of livestock were killed in both states. Total damage was estimated at $2 million.
8  9 6/12/1915  1720 CST  Waterville 2 NW to Soldiers Grove Allamakee, IA
Crawford, WI 
30  400  50  F4 
   Moved northeast from northwest of Waterville crossing the Mississippi River 2 miles south of Ferryville, WI (Crawford Co.).  A man and his daughter were killed in one of three homes that were obliterated southwest of "Heytman", a small railroad station on the Mississippi River. Damaged continued in southwest Wisconsin. $200,000
9  9 10/3/1903  1350 CST  Chatfield 3W to Independence (WI) Buffalo, WI
Olmsted, MN Trempealeau, WI
Winona, MN
55  300  45  F4 
  This tornado moved northeast from west of Chatfield (Olmsted Co.), passing through and devastating St.Charles (Winona Co.). Seven people were killed and 30 injured as 50 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. Homes were also swept away in Wisconsin, along Eagle Creek and then at Independence, where two people died and half of the town was torn apart.  Damage for both states totalled $400,000.
10  9 3/10/1876  1630 CST  Hazel Green Grant, WI  200  50  F3 
  "A solid mass of heavy rubbish" moved east northeast across Hazel Green destroying a large part of the town.  Parts of a church steeple were carried more than 3 miles.  Several people were "crushed beyond recognition" in their homes.  Two children were carried 400 yards and set down.  They were badly bruised, but they were alive.  It was reported that two horses were carried to a height of 60 feet and set down 600 yards from their former site of the barn "unbruised but stone dead 20 feet apart".  The village hearse was "carried off" and a coffin handle was found eight miles to the northeast.  Southwest of Hazel Green "a furrow 600 feet long, 4 feet wide, and several feet deep was plowed."  Newspapers reported that "Hazel Green will never be resurrected....23 homes (were) ground finer than grist from the mills of the Gods."  During the 3 years prior, Hazel Green had weathered several damaging wind storms, a nitro-glycerine explosion, and a plague of scarlet fever.

Last Updated Thursday, January 27, 2011 - Jeff Boyne


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