Monroe, WI tornado June 1979


Monroe, Wis. - Several persons were injured by flying glass, nine semitrailer trucks were upended and about a dozen commercial buildings were damaged when a tornado struck Monroe's west side Saturday evening.

The tornado cut a path 17 blocks long in an area where a tornado struck on Palm Sunday 1965. It is called the Monroe Tornado Urban Renewal Area.

Saturday night's tornado blew in plate glass windows on several customers eating at McDonald's Restaurant and Dairy Queen, but only four were treated at St. Clare Hospital.

Police said the injured included a man, a boy and two women.

Nine semitrailer trucks parked outside the Stanley E. Whitehead Trucking Co. were picked up by the gale and thrown into a tangled heap, with some sticking up in the air and others rolled over on their tops. A witness said they were "stacked like dominos."

The windows of dozens of cars and trucks parked in the area were smashed. Some camper tops at Monroe Machine and Welding, Inc., were blown into the air.

Roofs were damaged and partially blown off of Value Village, the Ludlow Bar, Monroe Machine and Welding, Inc., Dearth Motors auto agency and Crandall Co., a tire factory. Dearth Motors also reported that several new cars were damaged.

Area Evacutated

Police Chief Richard Busch called a state of emergency about 7 p.m. and sent officers out to evacuate the entire area. Squad cars cruised the streets issuing the order to evacuate through loudspeakers. Ambulances and fire trucks were standing by.

The area was sealed off to all pedestrians and traffic was rerouted. Up to 40 Green County sheriff's deputies and Monroe police were called out for all night patrol to prevent trespassing and looting.

Busch said the tornado followed a path from the city sewage plant to near St. Clare Hospital, a distance of about 17 blocks. he said he could place no dollar estimate on the damage.

Fire Chief Paul Mueller said firemen found and stopped a few gas leaks, but there were no fires. He said there were several downed power lines and trees, and the Sheriff's Department said the area was without power.

No Warning

Green County Sheriff Arlin Hanson said, "We had no warning at all. There was nothing from the weather service. It had hit and gone before we realized it was here."

The funnel was first reported by Patrolman Steve Zschernitz, who said he saw it when it was almost directly overhead.

An employe at Dearth Motors said that just before the tornado struck a barometer in the auto showroom took a sharp dip of 30 points, from 30.20 to 29.90, and then rose swiftly again.

A housing project for the elderly, Churchill Woods, was in the path of the storm and sustained window and water damage, but no one was injured.

A number of persons in the two fast food restraurants who apparently suffered minor injuries did not seek medical treatment.

Struck Shoulder

Kenneth Olson of South Wayne said he was eating at Dairy Queen when the tornado hit, blowing a large section of a plate glass window over his shoulder and head. he said his shoulder hurt after being struck by the glass, but he did not seek treatment.

The tornado headed almost due north toward Monticello and then dissipated. The National Weather Service placed Dane County under a tornado warning from 6 to 7 p.m., but reduced that to a tornado watch for the next half hour. Dane County said no storm damage was reported.

When the Palm Sunday tornado hit Monroe in 1965, about 36 persons were injured, 13 of them seriously.

The Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, WI 10 June, 1979


Monroe, Wis. - A 17 block long area of the northwest side was reopened Sunday night, ending a 24 hour emergency after a torndo damaged a number of buildings and injured about 10 people, none seriously.

The cleanup is nearly complete, and officials made a preliminary damage estimate of $1 million.

Monroe Police Chief Richard Busch said the storm was "small and silent, as such storms go."

The injuries were from flying glass. Not all those injured sought medical treatment.

Structural Damage

Mrs. Glen Boeck, one of the owners of the Dairy Queen restaurant, said the business would be closed for two to three weeks because of structural damage.

About 20 persons dived under chairs and tables in the Dairy Queen at suppertime Saturday when gles blew in plate glass windows. Mrs. Boeck said new plate glass windows were installed in short order, but the small metal building suffered roof damage.

Next door, McDonald's Restaurant, which also lost windows in the storm, was open Sunday but had little business because police were still keeping the area closed to anyone without an official pass.

Storm damage was in an area about 17 blocks long and two to three blocks wide. It was the same area that was damaged by a tornado on Palm Sunday 14 years ago that did about $20 million in damages. Thirty-six persons were injured then, 13 seriously.

70 Cars Damaged

Robert Dearth of Dearth Motors said damage at the auto dealership was substantially less than in 1965. However, up to 70 cars were damaged when parts of the ceiling and roof collapsed.

Whitehead Specialties, Inc., a trucking firm, will send nine van trailers and a milk tanker that were upended in the storm back to the factory for repairs.

Deanne Rasmussen, daughter of the owner, estimated a $70,000 loss, but said insurance would cover most of it. The company has a fleet of [sic] trucks and is not hurt by [sic] loss of 9 of [sic].

The Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, WI 11 June, 1979