How Many Violent (EF4/EF5) Tornadoes In Wisconsin? (updated 05/23)

EF5/F5 tornadoes are rare in Wisconsin.  We took a look in the record books going back into the 1800s and could find only 6 tornadoes which could be considered EF5/F5.

Two of them (Oakfield in 1996 and Barneveld in 1984) were officially documented as EF5/F5 strength.  These two are listed below along with the other candidates. 

Keep in mind the National Weather Service officially started to rate the strength of tornadoes in 1982.  A commercial business (Thomas Grazulis) was contracted by the NWS to rate tornadoes in the U.S. between 1950 and 1981 based on documented descriptions and pictures.  Additionally, Grazulis rated tornadoes prior to 1950 as well, but these pre-1950 tornado ratings are considered unofficial.

The National Weather Service has documented 1499 tornadoes in Wisconsin going back to 1844.  Documentation prior to 1950 was incomplete. The six EF5/F5 tornadoes equate to roughly 0.4 percent of all documented tornadoes in Wisconsin.  Additionally, we've documented at least 511 fatalities and 3049 injured people in Wisconsin due to tornadoes.

  • Oakfield /Fond du Lac County. July 18 1996. 705 to 735 pm. Path length 13 miles, max width 400 yards. Injured 12. Damage estimated at $ 40.4 million dollars in 1996 dollars /59.78 million in 2013 dollars.  It became a F5 tornado east of Oakfield.   Officially rated by NWS.
  • Barneveld/Iowa and Dane County.  June 8 1984. 1241 am to 140 am.   Path 36 miles, max width 450 yards. Killed 9 and injured 200, and destroyed 142 buildings. Damage estimated at $40 million dollars in 1984 dollars /89.38 million 2013 dollars. This was an F5 tornado only in Barneveld.   Officially rated by NWS.
  • Baldwin to Colfax area/St. Croix and Dunn County. June 4, 1958. 630 to 710 pm. Path length 34.8 miles, max width 880 yards.  Killed 19 and injured 10. Moved at 52 mph from south of Woodville to east of Colfax.  Not officially rated by the NWS. Rated as a F5 by a company contracted by NWS.
  • New Richmond /St. Croix County. June 12 1899. Started 540 pm. Path length 45 miles, max width 300 yards. Killed 117 and injured 125 and destroying over 300 buildings. Not officially rated by the NWS, but many people agree this was probably a F5 tornado.
  • Abbotsford-Antigo/Eau Claire-Clark-Marathon-Lincoln-Langlade County.  May 18, 1898. Started 400 pm. Path length 110 miles. Killed 17 and injured 100. Not officially rated by NWS.  Possible F5 candidate.
  • Darlington to Moscow Township/Lafayette and Iowa County. May 22, 1893. Started 500 pm. Path length 15 miles and max width 1200 yards. Killed 5 and injured 10. Not officially rated by NWS.  Possible F5 candidate.

The map below shows the EF5/F5 rated tornadoes across the United States since 1950. The tornadoes are numbered in the order that they occurred since 1950, from lowest to highest. This graphic is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.  Click on image for a larger version.

EF 5 tornadoes across the US

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NUMBER DATE LOCATION
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59 May 20, 2013 Moore OK
58 May 24, 2011 El Reno/Piedmont OK
57 May 22, 2011 Joplin MO
56 April 27, 2011 Rainsville/Sylvania AL
55 April 27, 2011 Preston MS
54 April 27, 2011 Hackleburg/Phil Campbell AL
53 April 27, 2011 Smithville MS
52 May 25, 2008 Parkersburg IA
51 May 4, 2007 Greensburg KS
50 May 3, 1999 Bridge Creek/Moore OK
49 April 16, 1998 Waynesboro TN
48 April 8, 1998 Oak Grove/Pleasant Grove AL
47 May 27, 1997 Jarrell TX
46 July 18, 1996 Oakfield WI
45 June 16, 1992 Chandler MN
44 April 26, 1991 Andover KS
43 August 28, 1990 Plainfield IL
42 March 13, 1990 Goessel KS
41 March 13, 1990 Hesston KS
40 May 31, 1985 Niles OH
39 June 7, 1984 Barneveld WI
38 April 2, 1982 Broken Bow OK
37 April 4, 1977 Birmingham AL
36 June 13, 1976 Jordan IA
35 April 19, 1976 Brownwood TX
34 March 26, 1976 Spiro OK
33 April 3, 1974 Guin AL
32 April 3, 1974 Tanner AL
31 April 3, 1974 Mt. Hope AL
30 April 3, 1974 Sayler Park OH
29 April 3, 1974 Brandenburg KY
28 April 3, 1974 Xenia OH
27 April 3, 1974 Daisy Hill IN
26 May 6, 1973 Valley Mills TX
25 February 21, 1971 Delhi LA
24 May 11, 1970 Lubbock TX
23 June 13, 1968 Tracy MN
22 May 15, 1968 Maynard IA
21 May 15, 1968 Charles City IA
20 April 23, 1968 Gallipolis OH
19 October 14, 1966 Belmond IA
18 June 8, 1966 Topeka KS
17 March 3, 1966 Jackson MS
16 May 8, 1965 Gregory SD
15 May 5, 1964 Bradshaw NE
14 April 3, 1964 Wichita Falls TX
13 May 5, 1960 Prague OK
12 June 4, 1958 Menomonie WI
11 December 18, 1957 Murphysboro IL
10 June 20, 1957 Fargo ND
9 May 20, 1957 Ruskin Heights MO
8 April 3, 1956 Grand Rapids MI
7 May 25, 1955 Udall KS
6 May 25, 1955 Blackwell OK
5 December 5, 1953 Vicksburg MS
4 June 27, 1953 Adair IA
3 June 8, 1953 Flint MI
2 May 29, 1953 Ft. Rice ND
1 May 11, 1953 Waco TX

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Below is a list of the 40 EF4/F4 tornadoes that have occurred across Wisconsin since the late 1800s.  Some of these tornadoes may have been two or three tornadoes, but available documentation doesn't allow for additional refinement.  Note that the tornadoes rated as F4s prior to 1950 were approximated by Thomas Grazulis.  These ratings, based on documentation and pictures, are considered unofficial. The 40 tornadoes rated potentially at EF4/F4 constitute roughly 2.7 percent of all documented tornadoes in Wisconsin going back to 1844.  

Tornadoes rated as EF5/F5 or EF4/F4 are considered violent tornadoes, and are the tornadoes responsible for most fatalities related to tornadoes. In Wisconsin, we've potentially had six EF5/F5 tornadoes and forty EF4/F$ tornadoes for a total of 46, or roughly 3.1 percent of the 1499 documented tornadoes in the state going back to 1844.  Again, documentation prior to 1950 was incomplete, especially in the 1800s. 

  County Date
1 Manitowoc County July 5, 1994
2 Waukesha county April 27, 1984
3
Winnebago-Outagamie County April 27, 1984
4
Iowa County July 3, 1983
5
Washington County April 4, 1981
6
Chippewa County July 30, 1977
7
Fond du Lac-Winnebago County April 21, 1974
8
Marinette County August 19, 1968
9
Ozaukee County August 22, 1964
10
Eau Claire-Clark-Marathon County June 4, 1958
11
Chippewa County June 4, 1958
12
Juneau County April 19, 1957
13
Green Lake-Waushara-Winnebago County April 3, 1956
14
Chippewa-Taylor-Price County May 10, 1953
15
Columbia County September 26, 1951
16
Portage-Waupaca County September 26, 1951
17
Oneida County June 25, 1950
18
Grant-Lafayette County June 22, 1944
19
Pierce-Dunn-Eau Claire-Chippewa County June 13, 1930
20
Pierce-St. Croix-Dunn-Barron-Rusk-Sawyer-Ashland-Iron County April 5, 1929
21 Polk County April 5, 1929
22
Bayfield-Ashland-Iron-Vilas County July 16, 1926
23 Bayfield-Ashland County September 21, 1924
24
Eau Claire-Clark-Taylor-Lincoln-Oneida County September 21, 1924
25
Barron-Chippewa County August 7, 1924
26
Trempealeau-Jackson County August 7, 1924
27 St. Croix-Barron-Dunn County July 15, 1922
28
Grant-Iowa-Richland-Sauk County May 21, 1918
29
Sauk County June 12, 1915
30
Crawford County June 12, 1915
31
Rock County November 11, 1911
32
Green Lake-Fond du Lac County July 3, 1907
33
Clark County July 3, 1907
34
La Crosse-Vernon County June 6, 1906
35
Adams-Portage County October 3, 1903
36
Buffalo-Trempealeau County October 3, 1903
37
St Croix-Polk-Barron County September 9, 1884
38
Kenosha-Racine County May 18, 1883
39
Walworth County May 18, 1883
40
Iowa-Dane-Jefferson-Waukesha-Milwaukee County May 23, 1878


Kapela/Brooks, WFO Milwaukee/Sullivan


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