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EF-1 tornado wreaks havoc
Albany twister was the first in month of Feb. in Wis. history; Evansville hit harder
Trail Road in Decatur Township was closed on Feb. 9 as crews worked on cleanup from the EF-1 tornado that struck the day before. - photo by Adam Krebs

ALBANY — Wisconsin’s first February tornado touched down last Thursday just outside of Albany, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

At approximately 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8, the Green County Sheriff’s Office Communication Center received several 911 calls reporting damage from a rare severe thunderstorm for the winter season in the Town of Decatur. Albany Fire Department was in the area for storm watch and observed a funnel cloud and possible tornado touch down approximately 1.5 miles south of Village of Albany.  

Deputies, along with the Albany Fire Department, Brodhead Fire Department, Alliant Energy and Green County Highway Department responded to the area. Three hours later, five residences had been confirmed to have damaged, including two mobile homes and several other structures. Alliant Energy was contacted and worked to restore power to the area. 

Several homes and one business on Trail Road, County Road E and Park Road had damage ranging from minor to major as a result of the tornado. There were no reported injuries or fatalities. There was originally 40-50 Alliant Energy customers without power after the tornado.

“Several residents were unable to stay in their homes on Thursday night after the tornado and found temporary shelter,” a press release from the Green County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management said Monday afternoon. “Debris removal began almost immediately and continues as of Monday morning.  Numerous volunteers helped with the debris removal.  These efforts will continue for several days, if not several weeks. Power was restored to all customers by Friday afternoon.”

The day after the storm, Green County Emergency Management and the NWS surveyed the area for damage, both at ground level and using an observation airplane. It was determined that an EF-1 tornado ran along an 8.35 mile path from just northwest of Juda to just south of Albany. Some of the heaviest damage occurred on Park Road west of Brodhead and in the area of Sweet Minihaha Campground and Trail Road between Albany and Brodhead.

The EF-1 tornado had a maximum width of about 50 yards, was on the ground for approximately 14 minutes — from 5:12 p.m. to 5:26 p.m. — and had peak wind speeds of 110 mph. 

The storm system continued northeast into Rock County, and not long later another tornado touched down south of Evansville. That twister, declared a large EF-2 by NWS, reached wind speeds of 135 mph and was 500-yards wide at its maximum width. It traveled for over 24.5 miles, from 5:41 p.m. to 6:17 p.m., passing north of Edgerton and Lake Koshkonong into Dane County and finally dissipating outside of Fort Atkinson in Jefferson County.

The damage from the Evansville tornado was immense, destroying several homes, displacing families and forcing the closure of roads for more than 48 hours. All reported injuries were minor, according to a Rock County Sheriff’s Office press release. More than 34 agencies aided the Rock County Sheriff’s Office after the event.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) asked paddlers to avoid the Yahara River in the area of Stebbinsville and Wis. 59 due to debris from the tornado. 

“The debris in the river has created hazardous conditions for those recreating in the area,” the DNR said in a Feb. 11 statement.

Locally, property owners that were affected can contact Green County Emergency Management at 608-328-9416 or email gziegler@

Residents of Rock County impacted by the storm are encouraged to report damage by calling 211. At 8:57 p.m. on February 8, 2024, Rock County Administrator Josh Smith declared an emergency for this event. According to a press release from the Rock County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 11, emergency crews and local partners were still conducting preliminary damage assessments and working to clear the area. Several side roads were still closed due to debris and other hazards of Saturday afternoon.

Over the next week, residents should expect intermittent power outages on Wis. 59, Caledonia Road and Gibbs Lake Road as electrical companies conduct repairs in those areas, according to the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.

By late Sunday, all Rock County roads were reopened, Gibbs Lake Road, were reopened. Local authorities were scaling down the Command Post established after the Evansville tornado. Law enforcement were maintaining an increased presence in the affected area.

For property access and other non-life-threatening law enforcement needs, residents in the affected area should call the Rock County Communications Center non-emergency line: 608-757-2244. Residents should continue to dial 211 for damage reports and unmet resource needs.

Using the FEMA Damage Assessment Criteria, Rock County had 31 residences impacted: three were destroyed, 10 had major damage, 11 minor damage and seven others were affected.

On Monday, electrical companies estimated 28 meters were still without power and anticipated restoring those connections this week. 

A community gathering for Rock County residents impacted by the Evansville tornado will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Evansville High School Auditorium.

How it started

The potential for strong storms on the unusually warm February day was forecasted in the days ahead by meteorologists. Late morning storms first hit the area just before lunchtime on Feb. 8. 

A second round of storms came through about six hours later as temperatures climbed into the mid-50s. A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Green County by the NWS at around 4:50 p.m., with a tornado warning issued just 10 minutes later. 

According to radar at the time, the turbulent storm cells were capable of producing strong winds, hail and a tornado was possible. Hail sizing from pea-size to quarter-size and larger fell across Monroe and Green County.

While Monroe was cleared of the tornado threat around 5:30 p.m., a new severe thunderstorm warning was put into effect for another 45 minutes for the city. Meanwhile, the original tornadic storm system continued moving northeast at around 40 miles per hour. Green County was issued a second tornado warning for the east and northeast quadrants of county at 5:33 p.m. 

Almost immediately authorities were tracking damage to buildings, fallen power lines and hazards on the roadways minutes later. Calls from Wis. 59, County FF, County F, Park Road, Wis. 104, and others followed the path of the since-confirmed tornado. 

The twisters are the first in the month of February in Wisconsin history. Since 1844, there has not been a confirmed tornado touch down in the state during February, according to NWS historical data records. However, data prior to 1950 is incomplete because, in many cases, only large tornadoes were reported and many rural tornadoes went unreported. 

The NWS website,, has 1,537 documented tornadoes in Wisconsin’s history. Three confirmed tornadoes have hit in the month of January, six in December, nine in November and 18 in March. June is the state’s most active month for tornadoes, with 449 confirmed in the past 74 years.