Weather Service Confirms Dane County Tornado

The National Weather Service has confirmed an EF1 tornado occurred Wednesday evening in Dane County, and it caused the worst damage in Verona.

SLIDESHOW: |

The tornado toppled trees and tore down power lines along a 15-mile stretch between Verona and McFarland.

“The tree damage is interesting,” said Rusty Kapela, a storm surveyor from the National Weather Service. “You’re looking at some healthy trees that have been uprooted or broken into pieces.”

Verona resident Bob LaPlant said he feels lucky there wasn’t more damage than the few trees down on his property, considering that his house is surrounded by hundreds of trees.

“It could be a lot worse with all the trees we had here,” LaPlant said.

A few miles away, Dan Hawk and his family weren’t as lucky.

“The skies got dark and winds were starting picking up,” Hawk said. “The next thing you know, the branch came crashing down.”

That tree came crashing down on the family minivan, which is a complete loss. Hawk said he knew a storm was coming, but he really had no warning.

“The sirens actually came on about four to five minutes after the tree and all the wind came through,” he said. “So, it was a pretty intense night.”

Hawk said the destruction left behind is replaceable, including his mangled minivan. Considering it was a tornado, he said he’s just glad no one was hurt.

“It is what it is — there’s not much I can do about it,” Hawk said. “Just deal with it and move on.”

While the worst damage was in Verona, the National Weather Service said the tornado actually traveled about 15 miles, uprooting trees and toppling telephone poles along the way. The path width was about 100 yards. The tornado finally dissipated about three miles northeast of McFarland.

Authorities said no injures have been reported.

The severe thunderstorms Wednesday night produced large hail and damaging winds in many parts of the state, knocking down many trees and power lines. Some of the thunderstorms produced quarter-sized hail and destructive hurricane-force winds in excess of 80 mph.

As of 10 p.m. Thursday, Madison Gas and Electric was reporting no local outages, but some Alliant Energy customers were still without power.

Nearly 900 Alliant customers in Dane County were without power Thursday night. In Rock County, more than 1,000 still had no power. Several hundred residents in Green and Jefferson counties were also without power Thursday night.

Some Verona Residents Didn’t Hear Tornado Warning Sirens

Most in Dane County heard the thunderstorms, but some in the area said they are confused about why they didn’t hear any warning sirens.

“The wind was unreal for like about two or three minutes,” said Verona resident Jerry Lewis. “And that’s when this tree was down.”

As severe weather ripped through trees along Lewis’ home, he noticed something was missing in the cacophony of chaos.

“With (recent events in) Joplin, (Mo.), it makes you feel a little spooked,” said Lewis. “And then you’ve got a siren tower, which you think is real safe a couple blocks away. It didn’t go.”

But just a few miles away, Verona resident Dale Burgenske said he heard the warning sirens while eating dinner at a local restaurant.

“The wind came in with terrible rain,” said Burgenske. “And then all of a sudden a tornado siren went off, and that’s right across the street from Culver’s.”

“It’s important to remember that sirens are one part of the Dane County warning system,” said J. McLellan with Dane County Emergency Management.

County officials said the 122 sirens on Dane County’s network are broken up into nice zones. Four of those zones were actively sounding alarms Wednesday night, including the ones in Verona.

But officials said residents must utilize all components of the county warning system, including websites and weather radios.

“The issue comes down to understanding what the warnings are telling you, what actions you should take and, more importantly, where do you get that information to begin with so you know what to do,” said McLellan. “And that comes down to being familiar with the Dane County warning system.”

But that still leaves the question of why some Verona residents heard the sirens and some did not.

Dane County officials said they working to get to the bottom of that. But officials said part of the issue could be that while most sirens run on the Dane County network, ownership and operation of those sirens vary by communities.

For a closer look at the operation, people can learn more about Dane County’s emergency warning system at this website.