KMSP - The tornado that bulldozed its way through the city of Chetek Wisconsin over a week ago that killed one person and injured 25 others, just made state history. The tornado was on the ground for over 2 hours and 83 consecutive miles. That’s the longest path for a single tornado in the state of Wisconsin since reliable records began back in 1950.
The tornado’s strength was also upgraded to an EF3, classifying the tornado as a strong tornado. To put this into perspective, fewer than 10% of all tornadoes are rated EF3 strength or higher. This also marks the strongest tornado to hit the state of Wisconsin since 2002… not something that happens very often.
The damage photo above is what EF3 damage can look like… it is what’s left of a house just outside the village of Conrath in Rusk County. The National Weather Service estimates that it took about 140 mph winds to create that damage which puts this tornado into the EF3 category. The damage to Chetek was mostly EF1 and EF2 damage. Despite what pictures can show, damage to a mobile home park cannot exceed EF2 strength because mobile homes are not anchored to the ground. Therefore wind can get underneath them very easily, flip and toss them around, and seemingly disintegrate the whole structure without a lot of “effort”. There are very few manmade items that can withstand 100 mph winds and not be anchored to the ground.
The remarkable thing about this tornado is that it could have been far worse. I realize that’s tough to say for those folks affected by it, however this twister lined up just south of highway 8 from Turtle Lake to east of Ladysmith. This particular corridor, just a few miles north of the tornadoes path, is far more populated with several towns along the way. If this twister ended up just a few miles further north, the damage could have been catastrophic for several cities. Pretty amazing that a storm can travel 83 miles and hit so little. To take that thought even one step further, the storm that would later produce this tornado actually developed over the metro. If this storm had gathered strength faster, then this could have been the tornado that the metro has managed to dodge for decades… but once again, so many of us got lucky.