2005 Wisconsin Weather Highlights


This review composed by Wisconsin Emergency Management and the 5 NWS offices that serve Wisconsin.
Review of 2005 Weather Extremes and Disasters
MADISON – State and local emergency officials responded to a variety of emergencies in Wisconsin, ranging from wildfires to a record number of tornadoes, and providing shelter to evacuees from hurricane-ravaged states.
The worst tornado outbreak ever in Wisconsin’s recorded history took place on August 18 with 27 tornadoes hitting the state. The hardest hit areas were an F3 near Stoughton in DaneCounty and an F2 at Viola. Governor Doyle requested federal disaster assistance but that request was denied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 
On May 5, 2005, Governor Doyle declared a State of Emergency for AdamsCounty following a wildfire that burned several homes and out buildings. The fire started near Big Flats, burning nearly 4,000 acres. It was one of the worst wildfires in Wisconsin in many years.
Nearly 2,000 families made their way to Wisconsin following the outbreak of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that struck the gulf coast region. On September 8, two charter flights from Louisiana arrived in Milwaukee with 170 people and 26 pets. A temporary shelter was set up at the TommyThompsonYouthCenter at StateFairPark for hurricane evacuees. The shelter closed November 1, as remaining evacuees were moved into long-term housing.
As a result of the hurricanes, Governor Doyle ordered Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) to review the state’s emergency response plans to ensure they include provisions for mass evacuations and responding to special-needs populations. WEM is in the process of working with county emergency management directors to review and update the state and local plans.
Below is a list of the 2005 weather extremes by the National Weather Service. 
Top Weather Events of 2005
National Weather Service (In order of time occurrence)
January 1-2 Ice storm and snow storm combination over parts of northern Wisconsin.
On January 1-2, an ice storm affected much of the area north of a line from Grantsburg to ParkFalls to Marshfield to Wautoma to Oshkosh to Green Bay. Ice accumulations of ¼ to ½ inch were reported. Later, up to 6 inches of snow and sleet fell on top of the ice over northwestern Wisconsin after colder air pushed in.
January 5-6 Snowstorm across southern Wisconsin.
Widespread moderate to heavy snow developed overnight Jan. 5 (morning of Jan. 6) and lasted through Jan. 6th over the Mid-MississippiRiverValley. Total storm accumulations ranged from 8 to 14 inches, with the heaviest totals along the Illinois border.
January 21-22 Snowstorm and near blizzard conditions.
A vigorous low pressure system produced heavy snow across most of the state during the evening of Jan. 21 into January 22nd. Hourly snow rates reached 2 to 3 inches in places, with embedded thunder overnight. Winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph were noted for a couple hours, causing near- blizzard conditions on the morning of Jan. 22. 
Northeast winds on the backside of the storm produced lake effect snow along the shoreline counties. Total storm accumulations ranged from 4 to 8 inches across northwestern Wisconsin to 8 to locally 16 inches across the southeast third, with the highest amounts across Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and KenoshaCounties. Some of the higher totals include 16.0 inches 2 miles northwest of Milwaukee (MilwaukeeCounty), 15.0 inches in both Brown Deer (MilwaukeeCounty) and 5 miles northwest of Kenosha (KenoshaCounty), and 14.5 inches in Brookfield (WaukeshaCounty).
Additional Winter storms over northwestern Wisconsin on January 12, February 27 and Feb 28.
Northwestern Wisconsin experienced additional winter storms on several days in January and February. Each of these storms deposited more than 8 inches in some locations.   
March 18-19 Winter storm.
On March 18-19 a prolonged period of late season, heavy snow moved across central Wisconsin. Storm total accumulations of 8 to 16 inches covered a broad area, with a band of 18 to 23 inch snowfall fell in an area from Alma (BuffaloCounty) to Northfield (JacksonCounty). Thunder was heard at times on March 18th, when snow was falling at the rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour.
Brisk easterly winds of 20 to 30 mph accompanied the heavy snow, producing drifts as much as 4 to 5 feet deep in some locations.  Some of the higher snowfall totals included 23 inches at AlmaCenter (JacksonCounty), 21.5 inches at BuffaloCity (BuffaloCounty), 18.5 inches at Ettrick (TrempealeauCounty), 11.5 inches at Port Edwards (WoodCounty), 10.0 inches at King (WaupacaCounty), and 9.5 inches near Wautoma (WausharaCounty).
May 5 Wildfire in AdamsCounty.
A spring drought manifested itself in the form of a wildfire in near Big Flats in AdamsCounty on May 5. Homes and other buildings were destroyed as about 4,000 acres of forest and grassland burned.  Unseasonably warm temperatures in the lower to mid 70s along with gusty south to southwest winds helped the fire’s progression.
July 23 Severe Thunderstorms.
Severe Thunderstorms developed in Minnesota during the morning and tracked into central by mid afternoon, eventually evolving into a “derecho.” Thunderstorm winds gusted mainly between 60 and 70 mph with this line of thunderstorms, with several reports of 70 to 80 mph. Widespread tree and power line damage was reported from west central Wisconsin through central Wisconsin, to south-central and southeast Wisconsin. A barn was completely destroyed at a location 3 miles southwest of Waupun in DodgeCounty as these storms passed through.
August 18 Record-breaking major tornado outbreak.
The worst tornado outbreak ever in Wisconsin recorded history took place on August 18th. A surface low pressure system was located over extreme southeast Minnesota early in the afternoon on Thursday, August 18, 2005. A warm front extended east southeast from the low and had dew points pooling in the lower 70s along it. The surface low moved east into east central Wisconsin by 10 PM CDT that evening.
Favorable wind shear associated with the warm front, combined with the strong instability supplied by the heat and humidity resulted in a record outbreak of 27 tornadoes across Wisconsin during the late afternoon and evening hours. The previous record of 24 tornadoes was set on May 8, 1988. There were 16 confirmed tornadoes in the NWS Milwaukee/Sullivan County Warning Area (CWA), 5 confirmed tornadoes in the NWS Green Bay CWA and 6 confirmed tornadoes in the NWS La Crosse CWA
Because the event occurred during the afternoon, people were able to heed the early warnings via NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazazds, commercial radio/TV, and outdoor sirens. As a result, only one directly-related fatality was reported along with 27 injuries.
October 4th Floods in northwest Wisconsin.
Flooding occurred over northwestern Wisconsin October 4th as thunderstorms producing very heavy rain continuously moved over the area during the early morning of October 4th.  The hardest hit areas were Bayfield and BurnettCounties. Several roads in the counties of Washburn, Sawyer, Ashland, and Price were closed due to high water.

BayfieldCounty, 3.00 inches of rain was measured in the village of Bayfield and 3.61 inches was reported in the village of Washburn. Several roads were closed as Fish Creek overflowed its banks between Moquah and Ashland. Around one foot of water covered County Road G and Highway 2. The damage to roads and water treatment plants was estimated at $345,000.

BurnettCounty, WoodRiver and MemoryLake overflowed their banks as up to 8 inches of rain fell overnight and in the morning. A few homes were evacuated near the WoodRiver. Around $50,000 damage was done to roadways from erosion along the WoodRiver. Schools in Webster and Grantsburg were closed for the day. Portions of Highways 48, 70, and 87were closed due to high water.
After a dry spring, a dry and warm summer and fall worsened drought conditions for winter across the southeastern half of the state. Much of southern Wisconsin was placed under a severe drought (D2) to an extreme drought (D3) by July and northern Wisconsin was placed under a severe drought in August. Yearly rainfall deficits averaged 4 to 9 inches across the eastern two thirds of the state. Conditions began to ease slightly in November and December after some much need rain moved across the state in November.
December cold and snow.
December 2005 turned out to be colder than normal statewide. Average temperatures through December 21st ranged from around 5 degree below normal over the northern counties to around 10 degrees below normal over the southern counties. This makes December, 2005, one of the top-10 coldest Decembers on record. As for December snowfall – amounts were above normal over the southern and central counties, below normal to normal over the northern counties. The entire state was snow-covered on Dec 21st…with snow depths ranging from 2 to 4 inches over ManitowocCounty to 8 to 12 inches in Iron County.
Other Miscellaneous Information 
2004-2005 winter snowfall.
Total seasonal snowfall across the state was generally near average with the exception of southern Wisconsin where totals were below average. The maximum total of 153.1 inches (near-normal) occurred in Hurley and the minimum total of 23.0 inches occurred in Mazomanie (well below-normal). Some other totals include 43.9 inches at Madison, 48.2 inches at Milwaukee, 48.9 inches at La Crosse, 55.6 inches at Green Bay, and 111.1 inches at Bayfield. Average snow totals for a winter season range from 30 to 55 inches across the south half to from around 90 to 160 inches across north-central Wisconsin.
The total number of tornadoes for 2005 reached an unprecedented 62. This broke the previous record of 43 tornadoes for one year set back in 1980. This total was much higher than other totals across the Plains states and it’s quite possible Wisconsin had the 5th or 6th highest total in the country for 2005! The average number of tornadoes for one year across the state is only 21.
The maximum and minimum temperatures across the state.
The coldest temperature recorded in Wisconsin during 2005 was -35 ºF at Solon Springs in DouglasCounty on January 17. The warmest temperature recorded in Wisconsin during 2005 was 101 ºF at the Kenosha Waste Water Treatment Plant in KenoshaCounty on July 24.
Some other extreme temperatures in cities across the state include:
            Milwaukee -                   Low temperature of -1 on January 14 and December 7
High temperature of 97 degrees on July 24
Madison -                      Low temperature of -10 on January 23 
High of 94 degrees on July 17/July 24
Green Bay-                    Low temperature of -10 on January 23
High of 93 degrees on July 17/July 24
            Wausau -                      Low temperature of -17 on January 18
High of 95 degrees on July 17
Rhinelander-                  Low temperature of -22 on January 16
High of 95 degrees on July 17
La Crosse -                   Low temperature of -11 on December 19
High of 99 degrees on July 17
Eau Claire-                    Low temperature of -13 on January 17
High of 97 degrees on July 17
Ashland -                      Low temperature of -21 on January 17
                                                High of 95 degrees on June 23
            Superior -                      Low temperature of -25 on January 17
                                                High temperature of 95 degrees on June 23 
Yearly precipitation.
Examination of the monthly precipitation amounts from 1st order weather stations and cooperative observers indicated that the eastern two-thirds of the state had below normal precipitation for the year. The area with the least amount of precipitation through the end of October extended from around Adams and JuneauCounties northeast to DoorCounty, where only 18 – 23 inches was measured. The south-central and southeastern counties picked up only 23 – 26 inches through the end of October, or about 4 to 8 inches below normal. In contrast, the western counties near the Mississippi River and the northwest and north-central parts of the state had normal to above normal precipitation, where 30 to 35 inches have been measured through the end of October. Grantsburg (Burnett Co.) measured 34.93 inches of precipitation – tops for the state - through the end of October.
Yearly weather-related fatalities & injuries.
Tornadoes directly killed one per person and injured 27 people. Powerful thunderstorm downburst winds resulted in 1 death and 2 injured people. Lightning strikes injured 11 people. There were no heat-related or flood-related fatalities.  Cold weather may be a factor in the death of a homeless person in Milwaukee in December, 2005. Winter-season injuries and fatalities due to vehicle accidents are not tabulated under the scope of this summary.
Total monetary damage.
The total amount of crop and property damage attributed to weather across all of Wisconsin has been estimated around $58,940,000 dollars through September 30. This total will rise when affects due to drought can be calculated.

 2005 Wisconsin General Weather Summary 

Wisconsin ’s overall yearly weather pattern was warm and dry, but also quite volatile at times. 


The year started with an active weather pattern.  An ice storm/snow storm combination affected much of the northern counties on January 1-2, and a couple of major widespread winter storms (6 to 15 inches) occurred on January 4-6, and January 21-22.  On February 19-20, a winter storms affected primarily the central part of the state with 6 to 9.5 inches of snow, and the March 18-19 winter storm dumped 6 to 23 inches over the same area. Additional snow storms affected northwest Wisconsin on January 12th, February 27th, and February 28th.  Most of the total seasonal snow across the southern portions of the state fell during January.  Temperatures were fairly mild, ranging a couple degrees above average across most areas. 


The weather pattern changed as spring and early summer rolled around.  Many areas reported large deficits in monthly precipitation and highly variable temperature swings.  Milwaukee averaged 2.5 degrees above average in April, became cooler with -2.3 in May, but quickly became much warmer with 5.2 degrees above average in June.  Green Bay averaged 3.0, -2.3, and 5.6 and La Crosse averaged 4.1, -3.5, and 4.7 respectively.  Without the usual spring heavy rains, flooding was null and rivers were left quite low.  These conditions gradually led to a significant drought as summer approached with water tables being adversely affected, especially across southeast Wisconsin .  Milwaukee reported 2.37 inches below average in April, -0.44 inches in May, and -1.33 inches in June.  Green Bay recorded -1.03, -0.23, and 0.01 respectively and La Crosse recorded  -1.38, -0.98, and -1.58 respectively as well.  The spring severe weather season was also unusually quiet, without any significant outbreaks of severe weather noted. 


Tornado activity began to increase significantly for June.  Thirty tornadoes were reported during June alone, which was already above the average number for the whole year of 21. 


July brought much needed rains to the west, but the drought intensified across the south and east.  Green Bay and Milwaukee both tacked on more deficits with 1.98 and 0.98 inches respectively.  La Crosse , however, had a surplus of 0.61 inches.  The severe weather season also began to ramp up significantly during July.  A powerful derecho developed in Minnesota during the morning of 7/23 and tracked into central Wisconsin before diving southeast into southern Wisconsin by mid afternoon.  Winds gusted mainly between 60 and 70 mph with this line of thunderstorms, with several reports of 70 to 80 mph.  Widespread tree and power line damage was reported from west central Wisconsin through central Wisconsin , to south-central and southeast Wisconsin. 


The worst tornado outbreak in Wisconsin history developed on August 18th.  Twenty-seven tornadoes were reported on this day alone which broke the 24-hour record of 24 tornadoes set on May 8, 1988.  One fatality was reported with 27 injuries.  


Weather remained fairly dry and warm across the state from August through early November.  Temperature surpluses ranged from generally 5 to 6 inches across most the state for September.  Much of this surplus was due to an unseasonably hot airmass from the 10th through the 12th.  Highs approached record levels in the upper 80s to lower 90s across much of the state.  A severe drought (D2) to extreme drought (D3) continued across the southern quarter of Wisconsin through the remainder of the growing season.


On October 4th, heavy rains of 3 to 8 inches affected some of the northwestern counties, From Burnett northeast to Ashland County .  The resultant floods closed many roads, and resulted in over $400, 000 in damage.


Toward the end of November, and most of December, much colder than average temperatures resided over the state.  By December 15th, average temperature deficits ranged from 8 to 10 degrees for the month.  Several days featured highs in the teens with lows well below zero.  The 2005-2006 winter season also began very snowy. Many locations had seasonal totals 5 to 10 inches above average.

extreme temperatures

winter graphic

Plot of 2005 tornadoes

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