2004 Wisconsin Tornado Summary (Source: NWS)

May 23rd-The Stoughton-Albion tornado was just over a mile from my house, but I never saw any rotation. In fact, I didn't even know about the tornado until NWS-MKX released Storm Data for May 2004 in October, since it never appeared on the SPC Storm Report log. Did get hit by (barely) severe hail, the first time I've ever actually been hit with hail at home:
Interestingly, I reported the 3/4" hail to the NWS via their online report submit page, but it does not show up on Storm Data.

June 23rd-A frustrating and somewhat scary day. Had a tornado touch down within a half-hour drive of my house. That's the biggest reason I regret not getting my driver's license last spring. I could have easily driven to Madison as the supercell entered Dane County from the northeast. It was mean-looking on radar with a pronounced hook and Madison is lucky there was not a more intense tornado. The damage path was only a few blocks from the retirement community where my grandparents live. My grandfather told us that there was no apparent tornado plan for the residents-the only notification he got was from the TV. Their living room (as do all the others in the building) has giant plate-glass windows that look out onto a wooded area less than 40 feet away. Had the tornado been stronger, hit closer or had damaging inflow or RFD winds surrounding it, that could have been a very dangerous situation.

The most frustrating part of the day for me was the fact that the wall cloud of the Madison supercell passed within visible distance of my house, and my camcorder chose right then to suffer a tape jam! The wall cloud was scuddy, disorganized and with no organized rotation (it was in between the Madison and Jefferson County tornadoes) when it passed, but it still looked cool with wild chaotic motion and a vigorous lightning show following behind it. I was quite unhappy at being unable to videotape that, to say the least.

June 23rd marks several tornado milestones for Wisconsin, and especially the southern part (MKX CWA):

-First tornado stronger than F1 in the MKX CWA since June 1, 2000:

-First day with multiple strong (F2+) tornadoes in the MKX CWA since July 18, 1996 (Oakfield day)

-Unfortunately, first killer tornado in the state since Siren (6-18-01) and first killer tornado in the MKX CWA since 6-08-1984 (Barneveld monster)

-4th-largest single-day tornado outbreak in state history, with 17.

-This accounts for half of the state's well-above-average total of 34 for the year.

-All this on what was a "slight risk" day until the 01Z outlook. Ironically enough we had a high-risk day on May 30 (first since June 11, 2001 derecho) which saw a grand total of one severe report in the state. Just goes to show you that it's Mother Nature that will decide when conditions are and aren't favorable for tornadoes.

July 6th-The isolated, brief Juda tornado occured just a few miles from my uncle's place near Brodhead.

July 11th-8 brief, weak tornadoes in the state on a day that was "supposed" to have no tornado potential whatsoever.

To review-Wisconsin has confounded the forecasters this year:

May 23-MDT risk day, tornado watch in effect, 4 brief F0 tornadoes

May 30-HIGH risk day, PDS tornado watch in effect, 0 tornadoes

June 23-SLGT risk day, severe thunderstorm watch in effect, 17 tornadoes including 3 F2s and 1 F3

July 11-GEN TSTMS day, no watch in effect, 8 brief F0 tornadoes
July 6th-The isolated, brief Juda tornado occured just a few miles from my uncle's place near Brodhead.

I stand corrected. Take another look at that page and scroll down to the July 6th entry...take a close look...that is one heck of a long tracked tornado! :lol: :lol: :lol:
Well Andy, I would tend to agree with you although the June 23rd event was highly irregular (although after digging through some old studies at NWS this summer I found that this sort of thing has happened before but is still uncommon) and thus was still predicted reasonably well (severe wording in the NWS grids that morning).

The problem with June 23rd was that in the morning and early afternoon hours, we were stuck in that low stratus type dreary light rain that kept MLCAPE values AOB 500 j/kg. Indeed the seeming lack of instability and the apparent cutoff of moisture to the south appeared to be dooming factors despite a very potent and dynamic low.

As soon as the bow evolved in Minnesota I knew we were in for trouble. The CAPE values were shooting up across WI as southerly winds had increased, the sun had made an appearance AND the cold front finally had a chance to interact with the juicier thermodynamics...allowing storms to become surface based. Of course, this bow echo (type-2 bow echo if you really want to get specific) really split in two across WC WI and both bows evolved rather intense mesocyclones that not only spawned many tornadoes but also helped enhance wind damage along the apex of the bow and slightly south.

It was a really interesting event. The bow echo that moved through Markesan and killed one man curled back on itself to create an almost hurricane-like appearance. I had the privelege of experiencing that event first hand at the NWS office in Sullivan and helping with the post-mortum type stuff. It is a really interesting event to dissect and hopefully I'll get that information together someday ;) . Technically, in addition to being a tornado outbreak, this bow echo (kind of a serial bow) could be termed a derecho, as it does squeak by the requirements although a couple could be debatable.

In the meantime...Wisconsin's summer was actually decently active although the bulk of it came in May and June with record flooding followed by quite a few tornadoes. I'm hoping next summer is a little more "classic" but that hasn't really happened in a long time.
That is a beautiful picture Doug. That this produced a tornado in Madison which was somewhat confounding because it had only very weak cyclonic convergence on radar at that point. However looking at archived 4-panel SRM data, it had extremely strong rotation as it crossed out of S Iowa County and into NW Dane County. Interestingly enough, it set down a weak tornado out there as well, that wasn't initially reported.

Just curious Doug, but were you chasing that storm the whole way (if at all chasing) or if not what was your mode of attack that day. I'd be interested to hear because things started revving up when the sun went down.

...Alex Lamers...
Alex, if you are interested this is part of an e-mail that I sent out to a local spotting group and some friends from this event:


As most of you probably know, I am an avid storm chaser and I travel
many thousands of miles a year to find these elusive storms. So when a
tornado occurs practically in my backyard, all of my friends and
family expect me to have seen the tornado, but this was not to be...
I was halfway through 9 holes of golf at the Monona golf course when I
noticed the anvils from the storms to the north west. I almost left my
golf partner at this point to finish up on his own, but I had a great
game going and decided to stick it out. I sprinted out to my car as
soon as my ball finally landed in the 9th cup (a disappointing 3 putt)
and was on my way to Verona to pick up my camera and video gear (I
literally have nightmares about not having a camera when I see a
I loaded up a radar loop at home, saw that a decent cell was in NW
Dane county and decided to head west on 18/151 then north on P to
Cross Plains.
As I was traveling north on P off of the HWY, I caught glimpses of a
nice base off to the north west, with a much better looking base
further north of this one. I recall Chad saying that 2 storms were
going to merge in Dane county, in hindsight this was pretty
significant. A supercell that gobbles up a smaller storm moving in
from the south often has a good shot of producing a tornado, looking
back at radar data when I got home verified that this merger was
likely responsible for the tornado in Madison.
I stopped briefly at the intersection of HWY P and S, which is about 8
miles due west of where the tornado occurred. These 2 photos were
at 8:16pm and 8:18pm looking WNW from my location at P and S.
There was decent cyclonic rotation with this rain free base and it was
creating a lowering as seen in the second photo, but I was drawn to
the base further north that was currently being warned on. (I do not
have a photo of this unfortunately)
I continued north on P into Cross Plains and could see that the base
to the north west of Cross Plains was completely rain wrapped. I
continued north on P into this rain wrapped storm, encountered small
hail with evidence of 1 inch hail on the ground about 5 miles to the
north of Cross Plains. It soon became apparent that this storm was
completely occluded, was falling apart, and that I should have stayed
on the base further to the south. I went back down to HWY 14 and
headed east towards Middleton. I believe I was getting on the Beltline
as Dan was calling out the tornado on the ground further east near
park Street. I continued east on the Beltline in a heavy rain core and
never could see any structure to the east because of the heavy rain. I
gave up the pursuit just west of Cambridge and dropped south on 73
towards N to see if I could get some good lightning shots.
Thanks. Those are some nice pictures. The reason I ask was that I was working a volunteer shift that night at MKX so it's nice to line up actual accounts with what I remember on radar. I remember calling people from Southern Iowa County right along the Wisconsin River but nothing spectacular was reported.

However (and thank you for reminding me of this) the storm mergers were AMAZING in this event. Whether it be coincidence or not, most of the tornadoes spun up or intensified just AFTER a cell merger. The Dane County cell was no exception.

This thing had been rotating to beat the banshee for awhile. Right when it got near Madison things got interesting. I'm not sure if a cell merger occured when the tornado spun up but one definately occured as it cleared Madison and approached Jefferson County. This caused a major change in the cell structure allowing it to become a highly organized bow echo and spread concentrated wind damage across Southern Jefferson County, eventually evolving new rotation (or perhaps old, but I'm not gonna pick through that tediously) and spinning up another tornado in far SE Jefferson County.

...Alex Lamers...
I actually left that storm when I saw radar of the storm bearing down on Waupun. (My home) I arrived home to trees down and power off everywhere.

Ouch...how close was the tornado to your house. I heard there was pretty heavy damage in that area.

...Alex Lamers...