On the evening of March 8th, 2000, an F1 tornado with winds of 110 mph struck Milwaukee. The tornado also impacted Cudahy and St. Francis, causing damage to homes, businesses, vehicles, and power lines. Sixteen people were injured, thankfully there were no fatalities.
A Tornado Watch was in effect on this day, alerting southeast Wisconsin to the potential for severe weather. It was an unseasonably warm day; Milwaukee saw a record high of 77° during the afternoon. The Milwaukee National Weather Office recaps the synoptic weather set up.
"Southeastern Wisconsin was dry-slotted as the jet stream punched northeast overhead. The southwest jet stream winds were 80 to 100 knots. Consequently, there was sufficient speed-shear in the atmosphere for isolated tornadoes. WFO MKX meteorologists on duty at the time believe an outflow boundary was pushed northwestward to the Mitchell Field area by an earlier thunderstorm which clipped the southeast corner of Milwaukee County between 5:25 and 5:40 PM. There was also evidence of a lake breeze. This outflow boundary/lake breeze front may have helped focus low-level vorticity/circulations which later coupled with the mesocyclone aloft in the thunderstorm moving northeast out of western Racine County, resulting in a tornado."
The tornado formed near General Mitchell International Airport, ENE of the main terminal building. The storm tracked northeast, lifting on the west side of St. Francis. The tornado was on the ground for 2.2 miles, an estimated 8 minutes, and the path width was around 75-yards.
Below are damage photos provided by the Milwaukee National Weather Service office.
March is not a typical month for tornadoes in Wisconsin. May through July are the peak months for tornado activity across Wisconsin. According to National Weather Service records, which go back to 1840, this was the earliest confirmed tornado to hit Milwaukee on record.
Now is a good time to get prepared for the upcoming severe weather season, which is just around the corner. Severe weather awareness week is coming up April 12-16th, when Storm Team 4 will go over more specific steps to help you be prepared. But for now, make sure you have a working NOAA Weather Radio, and multiple ways to receive weather warnings. Also, know where you would take shelter in the event of a tornado.
The National Weather Service event recap can be found here.