The Tornado Outbreak of May 10, 1953


While there have been days with more tornadoes across the region (most notably June 9, 1993 when 13 tornado touchdowns were confirmed), the 5 tornadoes that struck on May 10, 1953 (Fig. 1) stand out for their strength and the length of their tracks. Four of the tornadoes were classified as F4 (“violent” tornadoes with wind speeds up to 260 mph). The other tornado was rated as an F3.

One F4 tornado moved northeast from northeast of Fountain City, WI to Colburn, WI. This tornado (or possibly a tornado family) struck about a hundred farms. Eight farms were hit in Glencoe Township, northeast of Fountain City. Total damage from this tornado was $1 million and it caused 10 injuries. The tornado was on the ground for approximately 65 miles, reaching a width of 200 yards. This tornado has one of the longest recorded tornado tracks in Wisconsin history.

Estimate tornado tracks of May 10, 1953
Fig 1. Estimated tornado tracks for May 10, 1953.

The second F4 tornado moved from 5 miles southwest of Chester, IA to 4 miles northeast of Chatfield, MN. Eleven farms were heavily damaged in northern Iowa before this tornado crossed into Fillmore County, MN. Twenty barns were damaged or destroyed in Minnesota and one man was killed as his barn was destroyed 1 mile southeast of Wykoff. A rural school was leveled 3 miles south of Chatfield as well. The only death occurred in Olmsted County. Six injuries occurred in Olmsted County and 2 injuries in Howard County, IA. The tornado covered 45 miles, reaching a width of 400 yards.

The third F4 tornado moved northeast and passed about 2 miles northwest of St. Charles, MN. Farms were torn up along the track. An infant was killed (Olmsted County) and 4 other people were injured in a car that was thrown 100 feet, about 1½ miles west of St. Charles, IA. Four more injuries occurred in a barn, and three more in another car. Hundreds of trees were snapped at Whitewater State Park. Overall, this tornado killed one person (Olmsted County) and injured 11 people (6 in Olmsted County and 5 in Winona County). This tornado also had the shortest track out of the F4's on this day, remaining on the ground for 18 miles, but still reaching a width of 400 yards.

The final F4 tornado moved across Rusk, Price, and Taylor counties in Wisconsin. This storm tracked north-northeast to 7 miles north of Phillips, but the damage path was not continuous. One farm house was leveled and pieces of it were found 7 miles away. The tornado was most intense in Price County where F4 damage was witnessed for 12 miles and caused over $150,000 in damage. This tornado “bounced” along the ground for 45 miles, reaching widths of 200 yards.

The F3 tornado moved northeast across Clayton County, IA from 7 miles north northeast of Elkader to just northeast of Giard. Barns and silos were destroyed as the tornado struck 8 farms. At least 60 head of cattle were killed. A farmer was carried 700 feet, but suffered only minor injures. Damage estimates were $150,000.



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