Damaging, severe weather struck Barron County for the second time this July, with local residents reporting a tornado west of Chetek on Sunday evening, July 28.
But while it was not a “typical” day for tornadoes, six spun up across East Central Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin, according to the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities, Minn.
Joe Raven and his granddaughter, Brooke Hrabak, along with Hrabak’s aunt and grandmother, were at Raven’s farm on CTH O when it was hit by a small tornado.
They had just gotten power back on Wednesday, July 24, after losing it in the July 19 storm. Raven said he was working on a new generator in his shed. He said heavy rain started and stopped three times that day. Around 6:40 p.m., the weather started to turn again.
“The sky was funny,” Raven said. “Clouds were going every which way.”
That’s when he told everyone to get into the basement. The wind and rain picked up, bending trees over, Hrabak said. Their dogs were freaking out.
After about 30 seconds, it was over, and they emerged to look at the storm and damage.
Raven saw rotating clouds and a funnel cloud heading northeast across the fields. He called 911 and said it was headed toward CTH OO. The county turned on the tornado sirens. Barron County dispatch logs said another resident south of them also reported a tornado and damage to a shed.
On Raven’s farm, the roof of a hay shed had been peeled up. Twisted and bent sheet metal was lying on the ground next to it.
A 24-by-24-foot cow shed was destroyed—one that had previously been rebuilt after the 2017 tornado. Winds had picked it up and shredded it, tossing debris across a 100-yard-wide swath, about 100 yards north of where it stood. Eight-foot pieces of lumber were imbedded in the ground.
Hrabak said they lost around 150 trees on July 19. Trees in their yard that had fallen in the previous storm were moved several feet by Sunday’s storm, Raven noted.
Fortunately, all the animals on their beef and hobby farm were okay. This time around, it only took them 18 hours to get electricity back, not five days.
Raven was thankful that his family was unhurt and the house was not damaged. Sheds can be replaced, he said.
Low-, mid-level storms
The National Weather Service in the Twin Cities, Minn., was surveying damage from Sunday’s storms on Monday, July 29.
NWS meteorologist Chris O’Brien said conditions were not what you’d typically see for tornado-producing storms. Usually, there is hot, humid air and thunderclouds that reach tens of thousands of feet into the upper atmosphere and they produce lots of lightning.
Raven said he thought it was odd the tornado was on the trailing end of the storm, after the rain. But O’Brien said, for a northeast moving storm, tornadoes usually form in the rear, on the southwest side.
Sunday’s storms were mainly rain showers with wind and very little lightning. They were not these supercells that normally spin up tornadoes.
The middle atmosphere, around 8,000–10,000 feet, was very turbulent with lots of wind shear, meaning winds at different altitudes were blowing different directions and different speeds. For example, 40 mph winds might be blowing northeast at 8,000 feet, but blowing at 70 mph to the west at 9,000 feet.
“It’s not a typical day that you would think of a tornado day,” Schmidt said. “These storms were producing lots of wind shear, to develop spin-up tornadoes.”
Near the Raven farm, the NWS survey team said a small EF-0 tornado touched down near the intersection of 8-1/2 Avenue and CTH O around 6:41 p.m. and traveled about 0.4 miles to the northeast over three minutes. Its maximum width was 25 yards, with estimated winds up to 74 mph. It damaged trees, crops and farm outbuildings.
Survey crews also determined there was an EF-1 tornado near Luck. It had estimated winds up to 90 mph and a maximum width of 100 yards. It started five miles northeast of Balsam Lake and traveled across five miles and ended five miles east of Luck, damaging trees and at least one farm.
According to the NWS, there was an EF-0 tornado in Biscay, Minn.; an EF-1 tornado east of Silver Lake, Minn., as well as a brief EF-0 satellite tornado southeast of Silver Lake; and an EF-1 tornado near Forest Lake, Minn., and Scandia, Minn.
No injuries or deaths were reported from any tornado.