SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN -- Although the weather might not feel like spring as of late, we're just starting to enter severe weather season here in Wisconsin! When it comes to severe weather one of the most visual and powerful examples is tornadoes. There are all kinds of myths and facts surrounding tornadoes, so today, the FOX6 Weather Team is here to clear some of them up!
Fact or myth: "We don't get tornadoes in Wisconsin and this part of the country."
Now, this is an easy one to bust. With our comparatively cool climate compared to the rest of the United States, some might think tornadoes don't even happen here. It's true, warm and humid air is a key factor in severe weather and tornadoes but it's definitely false we don't get them. It is quite common for our dewpoints (a measure of the amount of moisture in the air) to reach into the 60s and low 70s just like down in the South and severe weather feeds on that moisture. Wisconsin as a state averages 20-24 tornadoes per year!
Fact or myth: "Tornado outbreaks only happen in the South."
Although they are much less common near the Great Lakes, tornado outbreaks or storm systems that drop multiple tornadoes in a short period can happen here too! On May 8, 1988 an estimated 12 tornadoes touched down from Grant, Wisconsin all the way to Juneau, Wisconsin. That's just one event of many that produced outbreak level systems that are still possible in our neck of the woods.
Fact or myth: "Tornadoes can occur year-round in Wisconsin."
This is a FACT. The only month of the year since 1950 that hasn't seen a tornado is February in the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin sees most it's tornadic activity between May and August but we can still see rogue storms even in January produce a tornado.
Fact or myth: "Tornadoes in Wisconsin can be just as strong as those in Oklahoma."
This is another fact! The strongest tornado ever recorded in Wisconsin was an EF5. It had estimated wind speeds of over 200 mph! That will completely level a home and clear out forests. This occurred in Oakfield, Wisconsin on July 18, 1996. While Oklahoma and other southern states are known for their severe weather-- even in Wisconsin we can be impacted by the worst that mother nature has to offer.
Fact or myth: "Tornadoes in Wisconsin don't last long."
This is a flat MYTH. A single tornado on June 22, 1944 was on the ground for over 80 miles. Stretching from Grant, Wisconsin all the way into Illinois. This by no means the longest tornado track in history -- but just goes to show we can get long-lasting events even in the North Woods!