Early 1960s tornado Milwaukee WI-- May?

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Richard Radbil

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Jun 28, 2007
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I was 8 years old in 1961 and I clearly remember the supercell that arrived in Milwaukee, WI directly from the west. The hail from the storm broke off all of the tulips at our home at their bases, so I think the event occurred in early May. It would have been the only tornadic storm in Milwaukee from 1960 - 1963, so maybe someone remembers it and can pinpoint the date. This storm introduced me to severe weather.
 
Jul 2, 2004
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Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Was that right in Milwaukee or in the general area? I remember that a tornado hit the town of Port Washington about 15 miles north of Milwaukee, east of Saukville where my grandparents lived. That would have been sometime in the 60s.

ADDENDUM: I guess yours was a different storm if it occurred in 1961. After digging a bit, I found that the Port Washington tornado occurred on August 22, 1964, and received an F4 rating. I remember touring the stricken area with my parents, and I remember reading a newspaper account in which an eyewitness described what he first thought was a flock of birds flying overhead. He quickly realized it was debris. The tornado, he said, "was very large and very white at the top and jet-black at the bottom." (Strange how I remember those exact words.)

I was surprised to find a couple of YouTube clips showing the aftermath of the Port Washington tornado. Here they are. The first, in B&W, has no audio track. The second, longer clip in color contains an eyewitness description of the damage shown in the footage.

http://www.efootage.com/stock-footage/78554/Port_Washington_Tornado_-_HD/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKr9qNW8jxc
 
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Richard Radbil

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Jun 28, 2007
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Mine was definitely in April or early May due to my recollection that of our tulips had been chopped off at ground level due to hail. Again, I'm not sure of the year. I do distinctly remember it came straight from the west and moved slowly as thunder could be heard at least 45 minutes to 1 hour before it hit. There were reports of funnel clouds over the Capitol Court shopping center which we were near since we lived on 66th and Capitol. We were in the basement, so I saw nothing once it began.

Smokefish scare of 1966!!!!

I lived in WI for 56 years. I chased the Oakfield storms from MKE and saw an excellent black wallcloud on I 43 near Port Washington, but no tornadoes. I now live in Austin TX which is just down the road from Jarrell. I traveled through Barneveld once and just could not imagine a mile wide F5.

Thanks for responding--those videos are great.
 
Apr 22, 2009
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preferrably near a storm
Being from Wisconsin this question is personally of interest to me. I wasn't born until October in 1964, so I don't recall either of these storms. I did some research and found a list of tornadoes in Milwaukee County, and there is none listed in 1961. There are 2 in 1962, but not in May. I found another list of "killer tornadoes" from an article titled "Tornadoes in Wisconsin: Two Case Histories" (link below), again, no mention of anything in the table in the article of a tornado in 1961.
Perhaps at the time there wasn't a tornado, but straightline winds and hail that damaged the tulips? Or only funnel clouds and hence not included in the lists? I'm no expert, just pure speculation here.

http://www.tornadoproject.com/alltorns/witorn.htm#M

http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/wmh&CISOPTR=37838&CISOSHOW=37786
 
Jul 2, 2004
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Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Jeff, it's possible that the tornado Richard is talking about didn't receive a rating of F2 or higher. If that's the case, then it wouldn't have appeared in Grazulis's book, which only records "significant" tornadoes. Moreover, Richard never mentioned any fatalities connected with the Milwaukee tornado, so I'm guessing there weren't any. Interestingly--and fortunately--neither were any lives lost in the F4 Port Washington tornado.

By the way, it has been interesting for me to dig back into this forgotten part of my personal tornado history. Until now, I had always assumed that the Port Washington storm was a weak one. Now I've discovered it was an F4. Yikes!
 

Richard Radbil

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Jun 28, 2007
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Jeff--

Thanks for that research. Probably you are correct--straight line winds, hail, funnels but no touchdowns. It was definitely in April or May, again, because of the tulips.
I do possibly remember that 1962 tornado as I believe it bent a sign on Hampton Avenue on the northwest side of MKE--close to where my family lived.