MILWAUKEE (AP) — Strong thunderstorms caused widespread damage across Wisconsin, left tens of thousands without power and triggered tornado warnings.
The severe weather stretched from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan and began Wednesday evening in northwestern Wisconsin. By 2 a.m. Thursday, the numerous tornado warnings around the state had expired.
The National Weather Service surveyed hard-hit areas in southeastern Wisconsin and confirmed it was a tornado, probably rated EF1, that caused damage around the Jefferson County community of Concord where the storm toppled farm buildings and left a path of destruction. Cows could be seen grazing among debris that landed in farm fields.
Gov. Tony Evers signed a declaration imposing a state of emergency in Wisconsin. Evers’ order directs state agencies to help those impacted by the storms. It also allows the Wisconsin National Guard to be activated to support local authorities with recovery efforts.
Meteorologist Denny VanCleve in Sullivan said there’s a good chance that it was a tornado, or possibly two, that caused widespread damage.
The weather service on Wednesday warned that the severe weather sweeping across upper Midwest states could include hurricane force winds and tornadoes and develop into a derecho — a rare type of storm that’s often described as an inland hurricane.
“If not a derecho, it was close,” VanCleve said. “You need wind damage more than 240 miles long and gusts of 58 mph for most of its length.”
A determination on whether the storm could be classified as a derecho would be made later, VanCleve said.