January 7, 2008 Tornadoes – A Look Back

***Watch WISN 12 News for the latest weather information!***

Thank you for stopping by the Weather Watch 12 Blog!  While frigid temperatures are covering southeastern Wisconsin right now, that was not the case just 3 years ago!  An unusual weather set-up occurred that lead to 2 rare January tornadoes in Kenosha county.

In today’s blog we’ll look back to a day that many will never forget!

To set the stage, a very warm airmass for January pushed north into southeastern Wisconsin.  Record highs were set at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport both January 6 & 7.  Here are the high temperatures those days.

  • January 6  52
  • January 7  63* All-time January record high!

The surface map at 10:21 a.m. on January 7 showed a warm front over far southeast Wisconsin.  This front was the dividing line between the warm and moist air and the cooler 30s to the north.

As temperatures jumped into the 60s that afternoon the airmass became increasingly unstable.  Thunderstorms developed along the front which became stationary.  Dangerous supercell storms formed, and moved from Illinois into southeast Wisconsin.  The supercell thunderstorms then began to produce tornadoes.

Below is a timeline of the event from the NWS in Milwaukee.

3:36 PM The supercell was producing a tornado over                                  Boone County, Illinois.  The tornado at this time                             was producing EF-3 damage.
3:45 PM The supercell crossing into Walworth County.
4:03 PM The supercell over far Southeast Walworth County.                     The tornado at this time had been on the ground for                      one minute.
4:08 PM The tornado approaching the New Munster area                and about to produce some of its most significant                  damage.
4:13 PM The tornado moving through the Wheatland area.                 Viewed from KMKX radar.
4:35 PM Well defined hook echo as the storm moves into                   Northeast Kenosha County.
4:40 PM The supercell nearly over Lake Michigan, and                    producing a tornado at this time.


Here is a map showing the path that the two tornadoes took as they moved across Kenosha county.  This map is courtesy of the NWS.

The two tornadoes that hit on January 7 were 2 of only 3 to ever occur in the month of January in Wisconsin!  The only other January tornado was back on January 24, 1967 when an F-3 tornado hit parts of Green and Rock counties.

The damage on January 7, 2008 was extensive.  One picture that really stands out to me is from Wheatland, which was hit by an EF-3 tornado with winds estimated at 150-160 mph.  This picture shows some scattered debris, but also a large area of ice, likely from melted snow.  It’s not often that tornadoes move through with snow or ice still on the ground!


If you have a memory of this wild day, please share it in the comments section of the blog!  To read the complete write-up on this event from the NWS just click below.


To get the latest forecast information watch WISN 12 News, and also visit us on Facebook at WeatherWatch 12 and on Twitter at WISN12News

Have a great day!

Jeremy Nelson


10 Responses

  1. Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Hi Jeremy,

    I remember the day very well. One of the scariest weather events I’ve experienced, yet not directly. The scary part was the ‘not knowing’. I’m located in the approximate center of Pl. Prairie. Nothing much here at all during that time.
    However, as I heard the first reports of a touchdown in Walworth, I got very apprehensive and downright ‘sick’ with worry! The reported touchdown location I heard was approximately 1 ½ miles northeast of Pell Lake. I have some very good friends that if you asked me to tell you approximately where they lived, I tell you approx. 1 ½ miles NE of Pell Lake! Just a few weeks prior to that a discussion I had my friend there had mentioned that her house was so messy for some reason or another, she said “it looks like a tornado went through it”!! For some reason, the recollection of that conversation immediately came to mind and I started to really feel sick to my stomach! Pleased to report, they came through it ok.
    Next report or so was that the storm was in the vicinity of Hyw 45 heading NE. I have other friends whose house is approximately midway between 45 and I-94! The storms reported location was such that by my estimation, the SE portion of the storm would be passing very near to them. I’m sure you understand the significance of that. More worrying for me!
    The next report was of a touchdown in the vicinity of 30th ave in Kenosha. I have an aunt and uncle that live very close to where this ‘thing’ seemed to be going! Yes, more worrying still! The end of this paths touchdown was very near a cousins home!
    At the time, it seemed a distinct possibility that any one or for that matter, all the locations I mentioned could have been taken down and out by a January tornado!!


    • Tony,

      Certainly good news that your family and friends were okay despite the close call! This was certainly proof that severe weather can strike at anytime. I think we had that reminder again on November 22, 2010 when tornadoes hit in Racine county.


      • Thursday, January 6, 2011

        Hi Jeremy! (again)

        Believe it or not, the friends I mentioned living between I-94 and 45; their son was working at the Case plant when the storm ripped the roof off!


      • The 46 tornadoes this past year ranks 2nd all-time! I think your friends are magnets for tornadoes!


  2. Hey Jeremy,
    I wasn’t living in Kenosha at the time, I was in Madison and had only been in WI for one month. This day made me realize how different the weather was going to be in WI as compared to where I lived in the mountains of California. I went out and bought my first weather radio the next day.

    I had always been interested in weather, but it was after these tornadoes that my enthusiasm for it grew and it’s safe to say that this day helped me decide to become a storm spotter and start learning more about how weather works.

    Here’s the weird part, a little over a month after these storms I met my wife Lynne and she’s from Kenosha. After we met I asked her if the tornadoes had been close to her home and she said “oh yeah”. I moved here in June of 07 and we live in her family home that’s only a mile north of where the second tornado ended!

  3. Friday, January 7, 2011

    Hi Jeremy,

    If you haven’t already done so, I think you’d find the news/weather stories and reports for SE Wisconsin for Jan 1982 very interesting to take a look through.


    • Agreed. Coldest weather I’ve ever experienced. 25 below with 30 m.p.h. wind and blowing snow.

  4. Hi Jeremy,

    Yes, this is a day my family will never forget! My sister-in-law’s house was hit in Wheatland. Fortunately no one was home at the time and the damage was only moderate, but it did displace them for several months. What struck me the most was to see something like this in person- unbelievable! Pictures of tornado damage are amazing, but it really puts things in perspective when you see it with your own eyes. To this day, we all still get a little nervous when the weather turns bad, as you never think “something like that” would happen to you or someone in your family. Nevertheless, we are grateful for all the Meteorologists working hard to keep us safe and informed!

    Thank you!

    • Jan,

      Thanks for sharing. I’m guessing anyone in the area that day will never forget January 7. 2 tornadoes and the warmest January high temp ever! I was in Kansas City at the time, and while the numerous tornadoes that hit Missouri were outside our viewing area, they were still huge news across the state. It was a wild weather day!


  5. Hi Jeremy
    I can’t believe its been 3 years since a tornado went through our backyard in Wheatland. Who ever thinks a tornado will hit in January. Thank God our house and neighborhood was spared, but it still was a very scary time for all of us. We just happened to get a weather radio as a Christmas gift that year, and so happy we did. I remember being in the basement with my then 2 year old and 6 month old and hearing the radio going off. It was after that day, we went out and bought weather radios for our families. It has given our family a little added security, especially since we just had a similar experience again in November of this year (Union Grove tornado).

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