June 1984, an F5 tornado destroyed Barneveld, Wisconsin with devastating results. 22 years later Barneveld is hit again by an F1 tornado, but the damage is minimal to property.
Storm Chasing Barneveld
The morning started out with convection moving through central and southern Wisconsin with a chance of severe weather in the forecast from a weak cold front expected during the late afternoon. My storm chase partner and I analyzed the short-term models, satellite trends and figured the chances of catching a severe storm was low. The low overcast clouds over the state was severely hampering instability but of interest was the increasing directional shear to help support any storms that could develop. The tornado threat was conditional but we decided to chase and target our position north of Madison, Wisconsin.
Three isolated storms developed along the cold front 35 miles northwest of Barneveld. They looked ragged on radar and we didn't have much confidence with any of them from on the onset. Finally around 6:30 p.m. two of the storms to our west had become severe. We decided to travel after the southern storm due to better shear parameters and favorable Wisconsin land terrain.
We were positioned on highway 78 near Black Earth, Wisconsin looking at the storm from the east. To our surprise, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a tornado warning for the storm we were observing. We punched west through the rain and found ourselves on the western fringes of the storm along the cold front. We pulled over and looked at the cloud base and found very small amount of rotation on the backside of the storm. As the first storm pushed southeast, we then turned attention to our north which was another small storm. NWS meteorologist Alex Lamers was nowcasting for us and pointed out the tornado warned storm was to our north. We drove to get a good view and spotted a ragged wall cloud. It was rotating on the northern horizon and spun up a small tornado for about two minutes. The tornado then dissipated as the wall cloud reorganized into a much larger lowering. It then split in half and the left portion of it spun down and produced another tornado for one minute.
This time we headed back south to catch up with the wall cloud to our east on highway 18/151. This time a clear slot/rear flank downdraft was punching through on the backside of the wall cloud that helped it rotate even faster. The storm had Barneveld in its sights and we could not help but think of the F5 tornado that struck the village back in 1984. Thankfully that scenario did not occur. The clear slot eventually occluded the rotating wall cloud and ended up in a dissipating but impressive rotating funnel cloud. Another wall cloud formed to our southwest along the flanking line but never produced any additional tornadoes due to the loss of daytime heating. We headed back to Milwaukee to call it a night.
The tornado in Barneveld was rated a F1. Another stronger tornado hit close to the Wisconsin Dells and produced moderate F2 damage. This event was a little surprising since we thought cloud cover was expected to last throughout the afternoon and early evening. The overcast eventually dissipated and allowed for instability to increase which helped the storms become severe.
June 8, 1984 F5 Barneveld, Wisconsin Tornado Resources