Northern and Central WI, tornadoes and storms, Jul 1983

Tornados sweep through state

A line of tornados and severe thunderstorms struck much of Wisconsin Sunday, extensively damaging property and cutting short Independence Day weekend celebrations.

Tornados touched down in scattered parts of northern and central Wisconsin, extensively damaging an airport in Eagle River. The torndos hit in a line stretching diagonally across Wisconsin, and were part of a system that ranged about 1,000 miles from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Kansas, officials of the National Weather Service in Milwaukee said.

Because of the approaching storm, officials at Summerfest in Milwaukee asked people to leave the festival grounds about 11 p.m., an hour earlier than the scheduled closing.

The rain started about 15 minutes later, and many people were seen running from the grounds. The grounds appeared to be cleared by midnight.

About midnight, a weather service spokesman said the storm's intensity appeared to be dying out. He said thunderstorms would continue in the early morning hours but severe weather was not expected.

According to reports Sunday:

-A tornado touched down in Beloit about 10:45 p.m. Sunday, according to the weather service. It was not immediately known whether the tornado caused any damage or injuries.

-At least seven tornados touched down about 3 p.m. in Bayfield County.

-Two tornados touched down in Juneau County, one in the central part of the county and the other in the northern part of the county, causing some injuries, a Sheriff's Department spokesman said. Six people were injured when a tornado turned their camper on its side at the Eagle Nest Flowage campground about 7 p.m. The names of the injured and the extent of their injuries were not available.

-Two airplanes were destroyed and at least 11 others were damaged when a tornado hit the Eagle River Municipal Airport at 5:30 a.m. Sunday. Damage was estimated at $750,000m a Vilas County sheriff's official said.

-A rural home was damaged when a tornado touched down in the Town of Unity in Clark County.

-A tornado destroyed a trailer home north of Grantsburg, injuring the owner, the Burnett County Sheriff's Department said. The extent of the person's injuries was not known.

-At about 10 p.m., 60 mph winds were reported in Beaver Dam in northwest Dodge County.

"We got hit pretty hard," said a Bayfield County spokesman. "One deputy went up in a plane and said he saw all kinds of damage. We got a report of a canoe being blown from a lake 20 feet into a tree."

Two men were injured - one when a tree fell on him and a second when he was cut by flying glass - and taken to Ashland Memorial Medical Center, a hospital spokesman said. No other details of the incident were available.

The afternoon storms also caused power or telephone outages in Bayfield, Dane, Dunn, Douglas, Sawyer and Burnett Counties, sheriff's department spokesmen in those counties said. The spokesmen said the storm knocked out power, blew down barns and houses, and knocked over trees. Neither damage estimates nor the number of homes affected by the outages were available Sunday night.

In another storm-related incident Sunday, James R. Timm, 53, of Menomonee Falls, drowned in Lake Winnebago in Calumet County, authorities said.

Choppy water forced authorities to call off the search Sunday afternoon for Timm, who apparently drowned earlier in the day, a Calumet County Sheriff's Department spokesman said. Officials said Timm was leaning over the side of his 16-foot aluminum fishing boat, trying to fix a fish locator, when a wave hit the boat, kinocking Timm into the lake.

The search will be resumed Monday by the members of the Sheriff's Department and State Department of Natural Resources.

High winds caused large waves on the lake, the spokesman said.

Eagle River airport manager Dorothy Gehring said at least 13 of the 40 planes parked at the small commuter airport had been damaged by the high winds and rain that swept through the area about 5:30 a.m.

A spokesman for the Vilas County Sheriff's Department said the storm's damage was confined to the airport.

No one was at the airport when the storm hit, Gehring said.

The Sheriff's Department also said there were no reports of severe weather anywhere else in the county at the time of the airport touchdown.

"There were no warnings that the storm was coming," Gehring said. "It only went through one area of the airport. It went right by some planes and didn't even ruffle their tailfeathers."

Gehring said none of the airport's buildings was damaged.

One of the planes that was destroyed was picked up by the wind, cartwheeled about 400 feet, and then landed on its wheels with its wings broken, Gehring said.

The other destroyed plane, a Cessna Cardinal, belonged to William E. Breese, 65, the retired dean of the Milwaukee Area Technical College's Business Division.

Gehring said Breese's plane was picked up by the storm and slammed on its top.

Breese, formerly of 3521 N. Summit Ave., Shorewood, said he retired in April and moved to the Eagle River area.

"I bought the plane in 1970 when my family lived up here during the summers. I used to come up here on the weekends and it made the traveiling time much shorter," Breese said. "We've had this place since the early 60s."

Breese said airport workers told him the plane was damaged beyond repair.

The Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI 4 July, 1983