Madison Tornado: Seven Years Ago Today


Seven years ago tonight a tornado crossed from Park Street, across Lake Monona, and slammed the Madison isthmus. The storm would be labeled as a F1. We like to think we are strong and in control of all things. Then we are reminded of real power in the hands of something else.

Early that morning I started my venture around the neighborhood with camera in hand. As one might expect there were many people out looking at the debris from the storm. I was struck at various places by things such as metal siding literally wrapped in a circle around a light pole, or a sailboat upside down in Lake Monona, a playground set under a huge tree that had blown down, or streets blocked to traffic from the massive uprooted trees lying about as if they were matchsticks flung about for fun.

Many of the people I talked with spoke about a noise–a large rumbling noise–that came moments before the wind. Some people went to their basements, but most I talked with were watching the weather reports on TV and spent the storm in their living rooms. One man I spoke with slept through it, and one woman gasped as I passed her house and she was first looking out at the scene in her robe and slippers while walking down her steps.

“This is so sad,” she said and covered her mouth with a hand. “Lots to clean up but lots to be grateful for too as we take note of the most important fact that no one was hurt.”

I recall arriving back home and giving a most detailed account on the telephone to Aunt Evie, who lived in Hancock, Wisconsin. She had not heard of the news and I was more than able to be her on-the-spot reporter. And we had much to see from our home!

B. B. Clarke Beach was hit with rugged winds which resulted in five trees down and close to 15 canoes and such watercraft on rental slots all gone, as well as the metal rental units themselves. After the storm, James and I took a 45-minute walk around the larger area, getting home at 1:30 A.M and being thoroughly soaked.  The trees in some cases at the park were cork-screwed out of the dirt, with the heavy metal sign anchored to a concrete base at the entrance to the park popped out of the ground.

Earlier that night I had been watching the weather, as I have an interest in such things, but James was starting to sleep.  I heard the roar (about 12:20 ) as I was looking out from our home. In fact, I had set the rocking chair set up so I could watch the lightning from the windows.  But then the winds started and I yelled for James and as he started coming from the bedroom I saw the whirling multi-colored display of a power line let go. I grabbed James and pulled him down on the floor under a wooden door frame.

Then the tornado had passed. In seconds.

In a few minutes, James had his shoes on first and went outside to pull some branches that were clogging the street drains so water could flow. I soon followed as we looked at our home which, thankfully, suffered no damage.