1958 Colfax, Wisconsin, tornado outbreak

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1958 Colfax, Wisconsin tornado outbreak
TypeTornado outbreak
DurationJune 4, 1958
Tornadoes confirmed10
Max rating1F5 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak23 hours, 50 minutes
Damage$83.3 million[1]
Areas affectedMinnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Wisconsin
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale 2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The 1958 Colfax, Wisconsin tornado outbreak was a deadly tornado outbreak that struck portions of northwestern Wisconsin on June 4, 1958. The outbreak which started in central Minnesota killed at least 28 people, all in Wisconsin as part of one of the worst tornado outbreaks ever to have struck the state.


Tornadoes first touched down during the second half of the afternoon across central Minnesota west of St. Cloud destroying barns and toppling trees but no fatalities were reported.[2] The thunderstorms raced eastward at 50 mph (80 km/h) through the Twin Cities area and intensified shortly after crossing the Minnesota-Wisconsin State line after 5:00 PM CDT.[3]

The deadliest tornado of the outbreak was an F5 that struck the Colfax area in Dunn County at 7:04 PM CDT. The tornado touched down south of Interstate 94 near Baldwin in St. Croix County the same county affected by the New Richmond Tornado on June 12, 1899, which killed 117. The F5 storm traveled for about 33 miles (53 km) across St. Croix and Dunn Counties passed through or near the Wilson, Knapp, Tainter Lake, Cedar Falls and Norton areas just north of Menomonie before producing the worst damage in Colfax. A few minutes later the tornado dissipated just west of US Route 53 near Bloomer.

The F5 tornado itself killed at least 21 and injured 74, making it the deadliest tornado since 1950 and one of the deadliest of all-time in Wisconsin.[4] 12 of the fatalities were in Colfax alone where damage was estimated at $2 million including about half of the buildings in that town flattened.[2] About 432 farms were damaged or destroyed while another 1032 buildings were also damaged or destroyed. 24 of the 25 homes in Cedar Falls were completely demolished as well. Debris was found as far as 75 miles (121 km) away in Sheldon. The same area was also hit by a deadly tornado in 1930 which however struck the center of Menomonie slightly to the south of the 1958 tornado track. That tornado killed at least six. An F3 tornado on May 24 also affected the immediate region causing heavy damage but no fatalities.[5][6]

Seven other people in Wisconsin were killed by two other tornadoes bringing the total death toll for that day to 28 with damage estimated at $10 million. The first one occurred just 7:00 PM CDT north of Eau Claire in the Chippewa Falls area. The F4 tornado lasted 11-mile (18 km), killed three people, and injured 50. The second one, also an F4 affected areas east of Eau Claire before 8:00 PM CDT. The storm traveled for nearly 60 miles (97 km) across Eau Claire, Clark and Marathon counties before lifting near Wausau killing four. The last tornado of the outbreak touched down in Rusk and Sawyer Counties north of Ladysmith shortly after 8:00 PM CDT.[3]

The storms, in addition to the fatalities and destruction, also cut utility and communication services through the region thus isolating many communities until help was provided from several areas including from the Twin Cities region about an hour west of the affected areas.[6]

Then Governor of Wisconsin Vernon Thomson ordered three groups of National Guard troops in the affected area for rescue and rehabilitation duties.[2]

It was the first official F5 tornado to strike the state since records were made official in 1950 although the New Richmond Tornado of 1899 produced damage similar to an F5. The next F5 tornado to strike Wisconsin was on June 8, 1984, when a tornado completely destroyed Barneveld killing nine.[7]

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 3 1 2 1 2 1 10
F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F2 S of Albany to N of St. Joseph Stearns 2220 13.3 miles
(21.3 km)
F1 W of St. Martin Stearns 2220 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Three barns were destroyed.[8]
F0 N of Roscoe Stearns 2220 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F0 NNE of Black Eagle Cascade 2325 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F5 SW of Woodville to NE of Colfax St. Croix, Dunn 2330 33.7 miles
(53.9 km)
21 deaths Severe damage on the northern edge of Menomonie and in Colfax and Cedar Falls. Many homes were destroyed, some of which were swept away. Cars were picked up and thrown, one of which was found wrapped around the side of a small steel-and-concrete bridge that collapsed during the tornado. Telephone poles were snapped and trees were debarked as well.[8]
F4 Chippewa Falls Chippewa 0045 11.1 miles
(17.8 km)
3 deaths Severe damage in the town of Chippewa Falls. Farms northeast of town were leveled as well.[8]
F3 Cadott area Chippewa 0100 4.3 miles
(6.9 km)
One home was destroyed just west of town.[8]
F4 NE of Fall Creek to W of Wien Eau Claire, Clark, Marathon 0130 59.2 miles
(94.7 km)
4 deaths Several farm houses were destroyed by the tornado.[8]
F2 NE of New Brighton Rusk, Sawyer 0210 13.8 miles
(22.1 km)
Barns were destroyed and acres of forest were leveled.[8]
F0 W of Milford Seward 0100 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Source: Tornado History Project - June 4, 1958 Storm Data

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/stormevents/listevents.jsp?eventType=%28C%29+Tornado&beginDate_mm=06&beginDate_dd=04&beginDate_yyyy=1958&endDate_mm=06&endDate_dd=05&endDate_yyyy=1958&hailfilter=0.00&tornfilter=0&windfilter=000&sort=DT&submitbutton=Search&statefips=-999%2CALL
  2. ^ a b c Various Towns in Northwest WI, Terrible Tornado, June 1958 | GenDisasters ... Genealogy in Tragedy, Disasters, Fires, Floods
  3. ^ a b Tornado Database, Tornado Maps, Tornado Paths
  4. ^ Tornado Database, Tornado Maps, Tornado Paths
  5. ^ Tornado History Project - Tornado Map
  6. ^ a b Our Story, Vol V - Colfax tornado cuts deadly swath
  7. ^ F5 and EF5 Tornadoes of the United States - 1950-present (SPC)
  8. ^ a b c d e f Grazulis, Thomas P (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.

External links[edit]