Severe Storm
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Tornado Outbreak

June 23, 2004
Map of Tornado Locations
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Seven counties in south-central and southeast Wisconsin were affected by tornadoes. Here are links to more detailed tornado locations for those counties:
Dane | Dodge | Fond du Lac | Green Lake |  Jefferson | Marquette | Walworth | Washington

See National Weather Service Green Bay's summary of the tornadoes in their County Warning Area
See National Weather Service La Crosse's summary of the tornadoes in their County Warning Area

Most Tornadoes In One Day Across Wisconsin: Top 10 Tornado Days


During the early evening of June 23, 2004 strong thunderstorms moved into southern Wisconsin and intensified, spawning as many as 8 tornadoes across south-central and southeast Wisconsin and 17 statewide. This summary will focus on the 8 tornadoes that developed in south-central and southeast Wisconsin. A detailed explanation is below.


Photos from Dane County/City of Madison area:

Developing Tornado   Severe Thunderstorm   Tornado   Tornado damage  
Tornado damage   Tornado damage   Tornado damage  

Photos from Green Lake County/Markesan area:

Tornado damage   Tornado damage   Tornado damage  
Tornado damage   Tornado damage  

Photos from between Markesan and Alto (survivors story included):

Tornado damage   Tornado damage   Tornado damage  

From Sheri Glewen (Owner/survivor of home destroyed)

The afternoon of the tornado was not typical weather that would alert me to severe weather. My friend and I spent the afternoon painting the front door and neither of us felt uncomfortable on account of extreme heat or humid mugginess. She went home (and she lives a few miles away just west of the village of Alto) and when she got there she heard the Waupun tornado whistle blow which was odd, she didn’t normally hear it and it meant the wind was blowing from the east there. But the weather was moving towards us from the west.

When she called me to alert me, I checked the radar on the internet and saw a big patch of yellow headed straight for us—I assumed it was heavy rain again and remained calm. Then I called my husband on his cell phone and he had just driven up after cultivating corn and he was standing outside our home and mentioned he did not like the sound of the weather—there was an almost constant thunder rumble in the west which we had also heard here to the northeast when the tornado hit Oakfield a few years back.

He came inside and we both walked out to take a look from the screened porch which faced west. As we stood there, there was a calm because the wind chime was not making a sound. I said I saw a funnel cloud appear, not sure if it was formed then or just dropped down but it was clearly a big funnel cloud. He said “YES, IT IS!!’” “We have to get to the basement!” We ran for the basement and he stopped to look out towards the west from a walk out door down there. I went to a place under the stairs. He followed in a second or two and said he saw the tornado hit the tree line and that it was headed straight for us.

Instantaneously we heard a cracking and twisting of lumber and my ears popped. It did sound like a train driving on top of us and we never heard glass break or anything like that, just a twisting and lifting sound. Debris fell on top of us HARD and I kept thinking we were going to be goners. We could feel the light of day over our heads and knew the entire house was gone and there was no longer a roof over our heads. It was an incredible shock.


Photos from Dodge County/City of Waupun:

Tornado damage   Tornado damage   Tornado damage  
Tornado damage   Tornado damage   Tornado damage  

Photos from Jefferson County/2N of Whitewater, Cold Spring Township:

Tornado damage   Tornado damage  

Photo from Sauk County:

Storms arrival  

...Here is a summary of the severe weather outbreak on June 23, 2004...

A cool, moist airmass resided across southern Wisconsin through the early to middle afternoon hours. Previous convection in the morning helped to hold off the northern progression of a surface warm front, keeping the area fairly stable. As southerly winds increased, the surface warm front pushed through the area bringing in slightly warmer air at the surface. This, in conjunction with relatively cold air aloft, created moderately unstable conditions.

A broken line of intense thunderstorms developed across Walworth, Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha counties around 4:00 pm CDT. These thunderstorms produced severe hail (image1 / image2) of up to one inch in diameter and torrential rainfall before quickly moving over Lake Michigan and weakening.

A brief respite in the action followed these storms as instability continued to increase across western and southern Wisconsin. Meanwhile, an area of strong to marginally severe thunderstorms developed across eastern Minnesota in response to a rapidly moving cold front from northern Minnesota. With higher instability levels along and east of the Mississippi river, this cluster of thunderstorms began to build farther south to form a broken line as they headed into western Wisconsin. The individual thunderstorms embedded along the line began to rotate as they encountered stronger shear due in part to the light easterly winds north of the warm front and the stronger southerly winds south of the warm front. The ingredients were in place for tornado development.

Before the line of thunderstorms reached southern Wisconsin, several reports of tornadoes and widespread wind damage were noted across west central Wisconsin. These same thunderstorms continued to develop as they rapidly headed east southeast around 55 miles per hour through the NWS Milwaukee/Sullivan county warning area (CWA) later that evening.

Widespread straight-line wind damage and severe hail was the result from the fast moving line of thunderstorms across most of the area. Several reports exceeded 60 miles per hour and a few even exceeded 80 miles per hour. Trees with diameters up to two feet were toppled or uprooted.

...The following tornadoes occurred with a cluster of thunderstorms which moved across the northern half of the Milwaukee/Sullivan CWA…

1.) Around 8:00 pm CDT, the first tornado report was received from 7 miles northeast of Oxford, or 3.5 miles north northwest of Packwaukee in Marquette County. The tornado spun up just east of Highway 51 and moved east southeast through the far southern portion of Montello and ended near the county line, about one and a half miles south of County Trunk Highway C. Nine farm buildings were damaged or completely destroyed. Based on damage surveys, this tornado was classified as an F2.   Radar image at: 8:00 PM and 8:30 PM.

Details:  Location

             BEGINNING TIME     800 PM             PATH LENGTH  11.0 MILES
             ENDING TIME        815 PM             MAX WIDTH    200 YARDS
             DURATION           15 MIN             DEATHS       0
             BEGINNING LOCATION 3.5 NNW PACKWAUKEE INJURIES     0
             ENDING LOCATION    4.0 SE MONTELLO    F-SCALE      F2, 140-150 MPH
			 
2.) At 8:33 pm, another tornado spun up about 3 miles west northwest of Markesan, or 2N of Manchester, in Green Lake County near the intersection of Highway 73 and County Road H. It headed southeast through the southern portions of Markesan causing extensive tree and building damage. It then cut across the southwest corner of Fond Du Lac County and into far northern Dodge County into the city of Waupun. The tornado continued on its path into the southern areas of Knowles before dissipating near Highway 41 at 9:05 pm. Damage surveys concluded this tornado was an F3.  Radar image at: 8:30 PM and 9:00 PM.

Details:  Location

             BEGINNING TIME     833 PM             PATH LENGTH  33.3 MILES
             ENDING TIME        905 PM             MAX WIDTH    400 YARDS
             DURATION           32 MIN             DEATHS       0
             BEGINNING LOCATION 2 N MANCHESTER     INJURIES     0
             ENDING LOCATION    2 SE LOMIRA        F-SCALE      F3, 175-200 MPH
   		  	 
3.) A third tornado spun up at 8:35 pm 4.2 miles south southeast of Markesan in Green Lake County and moved east toward the Green Lake and Fond du Lac county line by 8:42 pm. Large trees were uprooted and some buildings were damaged. Before merging with the Markesan tornado in far western Fond du Lac County, this tornado caused F2 damage.   Radar image at: 8:30 PM and 9:00 PM.

Details:  Location

             BEGINNING TIME     835 PM             PATH LENGTH  7.6 MILES
             ENDING TIME        842 PM             MAX WIDTH    300 YARDS
             DURATION           7 MIN              DEATHS       1
             BEGINNING LOCATION 4.2 SSE MARKESAN   INJURIES     1
             ENDING LOCATION    2.5 SSW ALTO       F-SCALE      F3, 175-200 MPH
			 
4.) Around 9:10 pm a weak tornado spun up southwest of Campbellsport in the Superior Drive area in southeast Fond du Lac County. Tree damage was noted and damage surveys confirmed an F1 tornado.   Radar image at: 9:00 PM and 9:30 PM.

Details:  Location

             BEGINNING TIME     910 PM             PATH LENGTH  7.6 MILES
             ENDING TIME        918 PM             MAX WIDTH    150 YARDS
             DURATION           8 MIN              DEATHS       0
             BEGINNING LOCATION 6SW CAMPBELLSPORT  INJURIES     0
             ENDING LOCATION    1.5 NW KEWASKUM    F-SCALE      F1, 80-90 MPH
			 
5.) A very brief and weak tornado developed at 9:19 PM southeast of West Bend in Washington county. Only minor damage was noted.  Radar image at: 9:00 PM and 9:30 PM.

Details:  Location

             BEGINNING TIME     919 PM             PATH LENGTH  0.1 MILE
             ENDING TIME        919 PM             MAX WIDTH    25 YARDS
             DURATION           BRIEF              DEATHS       0
             BEGINNING LOCATION 4.0 NNE JACKSON    INJURIES     0
             ENDING LOCATION    4.0 NNE JACKSON    F-SCALE      F0, 50-60 MPH
			 
...The following tornadoes occurred with a second cluster mainly south of Interstate 94 which moved through Dane, Walworth, and Jefferson counties...

6.) At 8:23 pm, a weak tornado briefly spun up two miles west-northwest of Marxville in northwest Dane county and moved east-southeast 0.1 mile to end at 1.9 miles west-northwest of Marxville. Only minor tree damage was reported and it was determined this tornado was an F0.   Radar image at: 8:00 PM and 8:30 PM.

Details:  Location

             BEGINNING TIME     823 PM             PATH LENGTH  0.1 MILE
             ENDING TIME        824 PM             MAX WIDTH    25 YARDS       
             DURATION           1 MIN              DEATHS       0    
             BEGINNING LOCATION 2 WNW MARXVILLE    INJURIES     0       
             ENDING LOCATION    1.9 WNW MARXVILLE  F-SCALE      F0, 60-70 MPH
             
7.) At 8:35 pm, a tornado spun up three miles southwest of Middleton in Dane county and moved east southeast through the southern city limits of Madison just north of Highway 18/12 (the Beltline), and ended at about 8:44 pm two and a half miles south of the Capital Square. Several buildings and signs were damaged and numerous trees were either uprooted or damaged. Through damage surveys it was estimated that winds with the tornado approached 100 miles per hour, or F1 intensity.   Radar image at: 8:30 PM and 9:00 PM.

Details:  Location

             BEGINNING TIME     835 PM             PATH LENGTH  7.8 MILES
             ENDING TIME        844 PM             MAX WIDTH    200 YARDS
             DURATION           9 MIN              DEATHS       0
             BEGINNING LOCATION 2.5 SW MIDDLETON   INJURIES     0
             ENDING LOCATION    2.3 S MADISON      F-SCALE      F1, 100-110 MPH
                                CAPITOL SQUARE
			 
8.) The same supercell storm associated with spawning the tornado in Dane County weakened a bit before re-intensifying across southern Jefferson County. The second tornado spun up 6 miles southeast of Fort Atkinson, or north-northeast of Whitewater, just north of Highway 59. It traveled east southeast through mainly open farm land. Two sheds were damaged and numerous trees were toppled. The tornado ended around 9:30 pm and was later classified as an F1.  Radar image at: 9:30 PM and 10:00 PM.

Details:  Location

             BEGINNING TIME     923 PM                 PATH LENGTH  7.8 MILES
             ENDING TIME        934 PM                 MAX WIDTH    150 YARDS
             DURATION           11 MIN                 DEATHS       0
             BEGINNING LOCATION 1.8 SE COLD SPRINGS    INJURIES     0
             ENDING LOCATION    3.0 NNW LA GRANGE      F-SCALE      F1, 90-100 MPH
  			 


A sincere thanks is extended to the spotters for their willingness to share their photographs.

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