EVANSVILLE, WI – Record-high temperatures and heightened moisture helped set up a historic February tornado in southern Wisconsin Thursday.
The National Weather Service confirms a tornado touched down in the Rock County community of Evansville, located just over 20 miles south of Madison. Damage found near Tollis Road indicates damage on par with an EF2 tornado; at one point maximum sustained winds were estimated near 135 miles per hour. Radar readings indicate the funnel at times was moving at speeds of around 45 miles per hour.
NWS says a second EF-1 tornado briefly touched down near Albany, Wisconsin Thursday evening as well.
Rock County Sheriff’s Department officials say around 100 customers remain without power this morning, and several people are recovering from minor injuries. At least 20 homes and businesses were damaged in the storm. Downed power lines are littered across Highways 59 and 14, so those roads will remain closed in both directions while crews are at work.
“We’re seeing a lot, it’s just make you take a breath and say ‘Wow…my goodness'” TMJ4 News’s Symone Woolridge said from Evansville Thursday morning, touring the area near where a barn had been destroyed by the storm.
“This place is so beautiful…it’s something I’ve worked on for 10 to 15 years…and it’s all gone.” resident Ron Art told TMJ4 News, turning emotional observing the wreckage on his property.
“We have a couple of houses that have been severely damaged, so those have been evacuated,” Rock County Sheriff Curtis Fell said, noting the above-mentioned downed power lines as well as several gas leaks being attended to. “We would ask people to stay out of the area for right now…don’t come and try to take pictures or anything like that. Let us do our job.”
Warming shelters have also been set up as temperatures Thursday morning ranged in the mid to upper 30s, further highlighting the unusual nature of Thursday’s tornado.
Thursday night’s severe weather also brought several bouts of hail to Southeast Wisconsin. Video from WTMJ’s Bob Brainerd shows some of that hail falling in Summit:
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