Northern Wisconsin Tornadoes, June 1980


Tornadoes, thunderstorms, hail and flooding ranged over a wide area of northern Wisconsin Saturday afternoon and evening, ruining barns and homes but apparently not injuring anyone.

The worst damage was in the Strum and Eleva area in Trempealeau County, north of Merrill near the Lincoln Hills correctional facility in Lincoln County, and near Lena in Oconto County. Two conttages, the gymnasium and the administration building were damaged at Lincoln Hills.

The National Weather Service said teh storms were part of a nearly stationary front that stretched from Minnesota into Upper Michigan. After a tornado had touched down in Oconoto County late Saturday morning, another line of storms swept eastward across that state at about 35 m.p.h. late Saturday afternoon. Much of central and southwestern Wisconsin and parts of Iowa and Minnesota were under a tornado watch until 9 p.m. Saturday night.

There were confirmed sitings of tornadoes, and damge to buildings, near Strum, Eleva, and Foster, a cluster of communities in southern Eau Claire and northern Trempealeau County.

At one farm about 3 1/2 miles east of Foster, extensive damage was reportedly done to buildings. About 4 miles north of Strum, a home was demolished.

A funnel also touched down near Larson Lake along Highway 51 north of Merrill. Authorities said roofs were blown off a number of cottages in the area and some barns were leveled.

John Ross, assistant superintendent at Lincoln Hills, said a maximum security living unit and a regular cottage both had about half of their roofs torn off. Each cotttage housed about 25 people and they have been transferred to other buildings.

"There was quite a bit of water damage in the cottages and the gym, which has a sizable piece out of the roof," Ross said. There was flashing damage on the administration building.

At Lena, where the tornado struck earlier in the day, a cleanup effort was haampered by flooding caused by up to five inches of rain.

Oconto Falls Police Chief James Mondlock said that if there was a funnel, it probaby didn't stay on the ground as there was no definite path through the area. The damages ranged over an area a mile and a half wide and about 10 miles long, he said.

Four or five mobile homes were demolished.

"One was a pile of junk," Mondloch said. "Another was blown against some trees."

He said that at one farm, 12 cows had to be killed after a barn fell on them.

A spokesman for the Oconto Electric Cooperative said a main transmission linewas repaired at about 3 p.m. and service was being restored to the area. Some people were anxious for electricity so they could use their basement sump pumps, he said.

The Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, WI 17 June, 1979

State corrections officials Monday were completing a survey of weekend storm damage at the Lincoln Hills School at Irma, where roofs on two cottages and a gymnasium were damaged Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, in Oconto County, where a tornado touched down Saturday morning, no official damage estimate was being made because only three residences were destroyed. Most of the damage involved barns.

At Eau Claire, Ronald Brantner, 29, a postman who was struck by lightning Saturday while walking his route, was in stable condition Monday at a hospital, where he was being evaluated for shoulder pains.

The Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, WI 18 June, 1979