On July 18, a devastating tornado struck little Oakfield, Wisconsin, wiping out 47 of the town's homes, about half of the town. Hundreds of people were left homeless. Fortunately, only about 17 were injured, despite the apparent intensity of the storm, which several sources have estimated at F3.
Here are photographs from an area photographer/storm chaser.
A day and a half later, these photos were taken from a man who flew over the damage track.
Storm spotter Bernie Kopp relates his personal account of the Skywarn activies by himself and others on his Shelter from the Storm page.
We have been in contact with one eyewitness who literally heard and saw the storm form right before their eyes. At least 10 minutes beforehand, the family, who were in the yard of their home preparing for a birthday party, heard an odd sound, which they likened to the sound of a jet engine. It was not thunder, but was continuous. The sun was shining, and they could see the storms to the north, very black and menacing. Then it got very quiet, and suddenly the tornado was there, heading straight towards them, then making a turn to the left, bearing down on the town. The family did not hear sirens, but their home is too far from the town itself to hear them. We heard from another source that the Skywarn hams in Wisconsin were definitely out and doing their best to keep track of the storm and keep officials on top of things.
Driving through the area, two of the family saw cans from the cannery in the area, some stuck into the wall of the school, and others laying around. The sign from the cannery was carried about a mile.
Skip Voros, associated with the Milwaukee Area Skywarn Association, and webmaster of their site, was kind enough to send us the following information about the storm:
As the picture unfolds, there were at least six tornadoes confirmed by the NWS.
From TV video that I have seen one looked like a multivortex, and others the run of the mill. This cyclical supercell had all the apperances of a classic cell; Wide at the bottom, near verticle updraft tower, well defind vault, sharp hard anvil, with some backshearing, and overshooting top.
At least 16-20 injured so far, with NO deaths as of yet. This cell was well within the range of the NWS Milwaukee/Sullivan Doppler (MKX) perhaps 40-65 miles from the radar site with the cells. The NWS radar in Green Bay (GRB) was also within easy range. Most activitity was north of Milwaukee by about 40-50 miles etc.
The cell produced continued lightning to the point that people on the interstate were pulling off the road to look at the fire works. One ham operator/cab driver noted that some people were exiting the local bars where he gets most of his customers, to look at the display. The system moved mostly ESE, became tornadic in Fond Du Lac county, then started to move SE somewhat over portions of Sheboygan, Dodge, Washington, Ozaukee counties. The intensity then dropped off somewhat, and by the about 10:15 PM T-storm warnings were issued for Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. A little thereafter the cell completely collapsed. It was interesting to note that there was a very abrupt end to the lightning, probably during the demise of the system.
Richard Z, our assistant Milwaukee Area Skywarn Association director visited the damage site yesturday in Oakfield, Wisconsin, and shot extensive video of the damage. He is sticking to his guns about a F3 or F4.
He noted that there are some very old, and very new homes mixed
into the damaged areas.
I live about 15 minutes from Oakfield and some of my friends rode their bikes into Oakfield. They said the town was devestated. There were trees and houses and cars all over the place. I also have a friend who saw the tornado. He said it was the most awsome thing he has ever seen. It was reported as an f3. I also heard of one guy who was watching tv and his house was picked up right over him.
0707 PM 11 W FOND DU LAC, WI TORNADO 07/18/96 FOND DU LAC 0711 PM ST ANNA, WI TORNADO 07/18/96 SHEBOYGAN 0711 PM OAKFIELD, WI TORNADO 07/18/96 FOND DU LAC *** 100 INJ *** EXTENSIVE BUILDING/HOME DAMAGE 0725 PM BROWNSVILLE, WI TORNADO 07/18/96 DODGE 0737 PM CAMPBELLSPORT, WI TORNADO 07/18/96 FOND DU LAC 0820 PM BELGIUM, WI TORNADO 07/18/96 OZAUKEE EVENTUALLY BECAME A WATERSPOUT OVER LAKE MICHIGAN. MULTIPLE REPORTS OF OTHER TORNADOES OVER NORTHERN OZAUKEE COUNTY.Note: the injury count listed is very high, and we assume that this figure counts even very minor injuries.
PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT...UPDATED FOR TORNADO RATING NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MILWAUKEE/SULLIVAN 800 AM CDT MON JUL 22 1996 TIME(CDT) .....CITY LOCATION.....STATE ...EVENT/REMARKS... ....COUNTY LOCATION.... 0705 PM 4 WNW OAKFIELD WI TORNADO 07/18/96 FOND DU LAC *** 12 INJ *** MOVED THROUGH OAKFIELD WITH F3 TO F4 DAMAGE IN 200 YARD WIDE CORE. ABOUT 2 MILES EAST OF OAKFIELD...PATH NARROWED TO 100 YARDS AND F5 DAMAGE NOTED. NEW HOME SWEPT CLEAN...2 AUTOS AIRBORNE FOR 300 TO 400 YARDS. REMAINS WERE UNRECOGNIZABLE. STEEL REBAR SUPPORTS FROM HOME FOUNDATION BENT AT 60 TO 90 DEGREES. CORN CROP SWEPT CLEAN WITH 1 INCH STUBBLE LEFT. BROWNING