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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.
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Have a great day!