The Door County Tornado - August 23, 1998


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An F3/EF3 tornado, with top winds estimated at 160-165 mph, struck a rural section of central Door county in northeast Wisconsin during the evening of August 23, 1998.  The multiple-vortex tornado was on the ground for nearly 14 minutes, and carved a path of damage 5.1 miles long, and 1/4 to over 1/2 mile wide at times.  Damage was estimated at nearly $7 million.   The tornado was the largest in Wisconsin in 1998.

The tornado, which moved off the waters of Green Bay, moved on shore three miles southwest of Egg Harbor at 6:30 pm, near Horseshoe Bay.  Thousands of trees were snapped or uprooted as the tornado moved across the heavily wooded area in Murphy Park.  The width of the damage path just after it came on shore was nearly one-half mile!  The tornado then crossed Highway 42 at about 6:34 pm, severely damaging several houses and businesses.  Damage in this area was rated F2/EF2.

About three minutes later the tornado ripped a two-story farm house off its foundation, dropping it 20 yards away.  Based on the house's construction, damage in this area was rated F3/EF3 with estimated winds near 165 mph.  Nearby, a campground was hit, causing considerable damage there to trees and campers.  Amazingly, only two people were injured.  The tornado weakened shortly thereafter, lifting off the ground three miles west-northwest of Jacksonport at around 6:44 pm.

Click here to read a meteorological discussion of the event, written by NWS Green Bay Senior Meteorologist Jim Skowronski.


The Supercell

This photo was taken about the time the supercell thunderstorm was entering the bay of Green Bay, off the Menominee, Mich coast, around 6:05 pm. The picture was taken 75 miles south of the storm. (Photograph by Michael Schardt)

 

 

This picture was taken at around 6:15 pm, about the time the supercell was producing a waterspout on the bay. The picture was taken 25 miles south of the storm. (Photograph by Ray Fulwiler)

 

 

This long-distance photo was taken as the supercell thunderstorm was producing a tornado over Door county. (Photograph by Jennie Lloyd)

 

 

This photo was taken at 7:30 pm, 45 minutes after the tornado had dissipated. The storm is 70 miles away from the NWS Green Bay office at this point. (Photograph by Jeff Last)

 

 


The Tornado

These photos were taken by Tom Janssen II at Murphy Park, which was hit by the tornado. The two on the left show the waterspout just after if developed, around 6:15 pm. The third picture was taken a little after 6:20 pm. The tornado was off the Door county shore over Green Bay (the body of water, not the city).

 

These pictures were taken by Gary Gridley, from Egg Harbor. The photo on the left was taken at 6:25 pm. The picture on the right was taken around 6:30 pm, as the tornado was coming onshore at Murphy Park.

 

 

These pictures were taken by Mel Pfister, shortly after 6:30 pm. The tornado was two miles away from the photographer in the far left picture and about 1/2 mile away in the picture at right, where multiple vorticies and debris can be seen. The Pfister's home was damaged by the tornado shortly after the last picture was taken.

 


Radar Images

The tornado struck 53 miles northeast of the National Weather Service Office in Green Bay, which has a WSR-88D Doppler Radar. At the lowest radar elevation (0.5 degrees), the radar beam is roughly 4100 ft above the ground at this distance.

Reflectivity

This image shows the supercell thunderstorm as viewed by the radar. The image was taken at 6:33 pm CDT.

 

Velocity

The first image (far-left) shows the tornado vortex signature as the tornado was about to reach the west coast of Door county. The second image shows the tornado vortex signature 9 minutes later (6:38 pm CDT) near the time it was producing F3 damage. At this point, the radar measured 94 knot (108 mph) winds (ground relative) at about 4100 feet above the ground.
 

 


The Damage

Here is a panoramic view looking east on Hwy 42. The damage width (which goes off the picture on both sides) was over 1/4 mile wide as it passed over Hwy 42. (Photograph by Jeff Last)

 

This building was on the south side of the tornado (right side of the picture above) as it passed over Hwy 42. (Photograph by Jill Last)

 

 

There used to be a farm house and barn here. This damage occurred about 1.5 miles east-southeast of the picture above. (Photograph by Jill Last)
 

 

 


This page was developed by Jeff Last (jeff.last@noaa.gov), Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS Green Bay.


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