The Barneveld, Wisconsin F-5 tornado

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Dear Tom,

I’ve always wondered about the Barneveld Wisconsin F-5 tornado hitting at midnight. How could it be that strong?

Thanks,
Margaret Robertson
Chicago

Dear Margaret,

Thankfully, only a fraction of the worst tornadoes occur late at night or very early in the morning, but the relatively few that do can be horrifying. They’re hard to spot and warnings are difficult to communicate because so many are asleep. Just before midnight (11:41 p.m.) the night of June 7, 1984, a vicious tornado ripped out of skies illuminated only by lightning and proceeded to tear ninety percent of Barneveld, Wisconsin apart. Within minutes, the killer F-5 twister killed 9 and injured 200. Despite the absence of daytime heating, nocturnal cooling aloft in conjunction with the warm, moist lower levels created the instability needed to produce the killer storm.

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