1984 Barneveld tornado outbreak

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1984 Barneveld, Wisconsin, tornado outbreak
Barneveld tornado damage.jpg
F5 tornado damage in Barneveld, Wisconsin (Courtesy of NWS Milwaukee)
Type Tornado outbreak
Duration June 7–8, 1984
Tornadoes confirmed 46
Max rating1 F5 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak2 ~12 hours
Damage $40 million in Wisconsin alone (1984 USD)[1]
Total fatalities 13 fatalities, 322 injuries
Areas affected Midwestern United States

1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The 1984 Barneveld, Wisconsin, tornado outbreak is a significant severe weather and tornado event that took place across the central United States from North Dakota to Kansas on June 7–8, 1984. The tornado outbreak produced several significant tornadoes including an F5/EF5 tornado[2] which traveled through Barneveld, Wisconsin, in the early hours of June 8, 1984. The entire outbreak killed at least 13 people across three states including 9 in Barneveld alone.

Meteorological synopsis[edit]

A low pressure system entered the Midwestern United States on June 7, 1984, and intensified while bringing a surge of moist and humid air coming from the Gulf of Mexico. After most of the affected areas were hit by a Mesoscale Convective Complex earlier during the morning of June 7, the unstable atmosphere, as well as wind shear and high CAPE values produced a favorable environment for the development of extensive severe weather with possible tornadoes.[3] Starting at around mid-afternoon, it started to produce several tornadoes across southern Minnesota and northwestern and southern Iowa including three F3s and a long-track F4 which traveled over 130 miles from extreme northern Missouri to southwest of Iowa City. That tornado killed 3 people including one in Missouri's Harrison County. Another person was killed in Ringgold County in Iowa by an F2 tornado at around 9:00 PM CDT. Activity continued through the overnight hours as a new cluster of storms developed across Wisconsin near the Iowa and Illinois borders and produced strong tornadoes including the Barneveld tornado up until the early morning hours of June 8, 1984, before dissipating.

Straight-line winds in excess of 100 mph and very large hail were also reported in eastern Iowa from the storm that went on to drop the tornado in Barneveld, Wisconsin.

Tornadoes confirmed[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 4 13 23 4 1 1 46
Confirmed tornadoes - June 7–8, 1984
Time (CST)
Path length
F1 SW of Kingsley Woodbury, Plymouth 1445 7 miles
(11.2 km)
F2 W of Cherokee Cherokee 1514 10 miles
(16 km)
F2 N of Galva Ida 1542 16 miles
(26.6 km)
F2 NW of Grant to SE of Anita Cass 1543 23 miles
(36.8 km)
Tornado struck 29 farms, causing severe damage to homes, outbuildings, and farm equipment. A fertilizer plant was destroyed.
F1 E of Primghar O'Brien 1604 6 miles
(9.6 km)
F2 E of Ida Grove Ida 1610 12 miles
(19.2 km)
F2 N of Storm Lake Buena Vista 1612 4 miles
(6.4 km)
Outbuildings were destroyed at several farms and homes sustained considerable damage.
F2 Laurens to Rodman Pocahontas, Palo Alto 1617 25 miles
(40 km)
Multiple vortex tornado tore the roof off of a warehouse and destroyed outbuildings. Farm homes sustained significant damage. Glass and debris was found embedded in carpet and furniture. Livestock was killed and two people were injured.
F3 Clarinda to S of Corning Page, Taylor, Adams 1620 25 miles
(40 km)
25 homes were damaged on the north side of Clarinda, one of which was destroyed, along with a trailer. Farm sheds and outbuildings were destroyed, and livestock was killed. Three people were injured.
F1 N of Everly Clay 1623 1 miles
(1.6 km)
F2 Spencer area Clay 1630 2 miles
(3.2 km)
Five homes were damaged, two of which had their roofs torn off.
F2 E of Havelock Pocahontas 1700 8 miles
(12.8 km)
Three farms were badly damaged and 24 pigs were killed.
F2 NW of Hardy to N of Denhart Humboldt, Kossuth, Hancock 1715 22 miles
(35.2 km)
Multiple farms sustained severe damage, with trailers, vehicles, equipment, and outbuildings damaged. Barns were destroyed as well.
F3 Burt area Kossuth 1715 9 miles
(14.4 km)
The Presbyterian church in town sustained major roof and structural damage. The school sustained roof damage and a wall collapsed on the second floor. 25 homes sustained substantial damage and several trailers were destroyed. Five people were injured.
F2 SW of German Valley to SW of Scarville Kossuth, Winnebago 1729 21 miles
(33.6 km)
A school sustained roof damage and a nearby house lost its roof entirely. A poorly built house was leveled, and another had a 2x4 driven three feet into it. Papers from the unroofed house were found 100 miles away in Minnesota.
F2 SW of Crystal Lake to SW of Kiester MN Hancock, Winnebago 1745 18 miles
(29.8 km)
A school and grain elevator in Crystal Lake were damaged, and a large grain bin was destroyed. Barns, sheds, garages, trees, vehicles, a house, and several trailers were damaged as well.
F1 E of Lucas Lucas 1854 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
F2 W of Kellerton Ringgold 1945 14 miles
(23.4 km)
1 death-Six homes were destroyed and 12 others were damaged. Fatality occurred in a trailer. Three people were injured.
F1 SW of Corydon Wayne 2033 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
F2 N of Kinross to N of Riverside Keokuk, Washington, Johnson 2033 24 miles
(38.4 km)
Damage to trees, outbuildings, vehicles and homes. A church had its windows blown out and most of its roof torn off. 13 homes were damaged in the Windham area and one person was injured.
North Dakota
F0 S of Carson Grant 1530 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
F2 NW of Burlington Ward 1637 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
F0 NW of Hamberg Wells 1759 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
F2 S of Padonia Brown 1533 18 miles
(29.8 km)
Five farm homes, four trailers, and 43 farm buildings were destroyed. 33 other homes and 97 other farm buildings were damaged. Four trucks were overturned on highways near Hiawatha. One indirect fatality occurred as a result of a heart attack.
F4 N of Brooklyn, MO to SW of Windham, IA Harrison, MO, Decatur, IA, Wayne, Lucas, Monroe, Mahaska, Keokuk, Iowa 1745 134 miles
(214.4 km)
3 deaths-Numerous barns, mobile homes, and farm houses were completely destroyed. Part of a drive-in movie screen from near Cambria was found near Derby. Tornado devastated the small community of Wright and produced high-end F4 damage to the northwest side of Delta. Nearby farms sustained similar devastation. A couple was killed when their car was thrown, and the other fatality occurred in a mobile home.
F2 E of Winston Daviess 2130 1 miles
(1.6 km)
F2 Jamesport area Daviess 2200 3 miles
(4.8 km)
Homes, farm buildings, and trailers were damaged or destroyed. One person was injured.
F1 SE of Pawnee City Pawnee 1800 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
F1 E of Albert Lea Freeborn 1815 6 miles
(9.6 km)
F3 NE of Albert Lea to W of Ellendale Freeborn 1819 14 miles
(23.4 km)
The Albert Lea Ambulance Service building was destroyed on the south side of town. 13 homes hand 4 business were destroyed. 52 homes, 8 commercial properties, and 16 farms were damaged as well. Some of the homes were ripped from their foundations. 12 people were injured.
F1 E of Waldorf Waseca 1820 1 miles
(1.6 km)
F1 W of Oakland Freeborn, Steele 1825 10 miles
(16 km)
F2 S of Austin Mower 1836 5 miles
(8 km)
A bowling alley was badly damaged, where 6 people were injured. A house and a TV repair shop across the street were destroyed. A total of 7 people were injured.
F1 NE of Douglas Olmsted 1915 1 miles
(1.6 km)
F0 NW of Wastedo Goodhue 1935 2.5 miles
(4 km)
F2 NE of Stanley Chippewa, Clark 2100 12 miles
(19.2 km)
Two barns were flattened and two machine sheds were destroyed.
F1 SE of Phillips Price 2230 1 mile
(1.6 km)
F2 S of Belmont to E of Mineral Point Lafayette, Iowa 2330 11 miles
(17.6 km)
Mostly tree damage occurred with this tornado, but a house and outbuildings were destroyed and a house was unroofed. Tornado dissipated just outside Mineral Point.
F5 SW of Barneveld to NW of Dane Iowa, Dane 2341 36 miles
(57.6 km)
9 deaths-See section below.
F2 DeForest to S of South Randolph Dane, Columbia 0010 18 miles
(28.8 km)
Two homes in DeForest had their roofs torn off. 22 grain bins were destroyed as well.
F2 SE of Arlington to Rio Columbia 0025 16 miles
(26.6 km)
A barn, a garage, and sheds were destroyed.
F3 NE of Rio to Markesan Columbia, Green Lake 0041 29 miles
(46.4 km)
A house, a trailer, and all outbuildings were destroyed on a farm near Cambria where one person was injured. 6 barns were leveled elsewhere.
F1 W of Columbus Columbia 0049 9 miles
(14.4 km)
F2 Beaver Dam area Dodge 0117 11 miles
(17.6 km)
$640,000 in damage to 30 buildings in the area. Three barns, one business, and two garages were destroyed. Five homes sustained extensive damage and one person was injured.
South Dakota
F2 N of Howard Miner 2100 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Sources:Tornado History Project (June 7, 1984), Tornado History Project (June 8, 1984) - for Wisconsin data only, Grazulis (1984)

The Barneveld Tornado[edit]

As the tornado activity calmed down across Iowa and Minnesota in which numerous strong to severe tornadoes struck those areas from mid-afternoon to mid-evening, the severe weather shifted east towards Wisconsin after dark where a tornado watch was issued at about 11:00 PM CDT. By this time, most of the residents of Barneveld had gone to bed and were unaware of the tornado watch. A supercell thunderstorm, which affected portions of southeastern Iowa with a few tornadoes at around 9:00 PM CDT before weakening and intensifying shortly after, entered Wisconsin from the Iowa/Illinois border at around 12:00 AM CDT near Dubuque. Shortly after 12:30 AM CDT, June 8, it produced its first tornado near Belmont in Lafayette County and lifted near Mineral Point in Iowa County about fifteen miles southwest of Barneveld.

A few minutes later, this storm system produced one of the few F5 tornados to hit Wisconsin, developing northeast of Mineral Point (five to six miles southwest of Barneveld). At 12:41 CDT this F5 tornado drove through the center of Barneveld in full force, finally dissipating in northern Dane County around 1:40 AM CDT after traveling 36 miles (62 kilometers) for 59 minutes.[4] A sharp bolt of lightning followed by a deafening clap of thunder cut the electricity to the town just a few minutes before the tornado struck Barneveld, awakened many residents. (It is said that the loss of power prevented the tornado siren from being activated prior to its arrival. In actuality, the town did not have a distinctive tornado siren from the siren used to activate the town's volunteer fire and EMT squad. If a siren had been activated, the residents would not have known it was a tornado warning.) At its peak, the tornado was nearly a quarter-mile wide. Other tornadoes rated from F1 to F3 touched down from Columbia County to Dodge County until after 3:00 AM CDT when activity finally weakened.

Tornado track of the Barneveld tornado (Courtesy of NWS Milwaukee)

The tornado was responsible for nine deaths and nearly 200 injuries in Barneveld while causing about $25 million in damage. In total, all three churches (the Congregational United Church of Christ, the Lutheran Church, and the Roman Catholic Church), 93 homes were destroyed as well as 17 businesses out of the town's 18, including the library, municipal building, fire station, bank, and post office. The village's water tower, though damaged, was not toppled by the winds. In addition, 64 other homes were badly damaged. The F5 damage occurred at a cul-de-sac on the northeast side of town. A cluster of several newly built homes were completely swept away at this location. Trees were debarked and vehicles were thrown and mangled. The Lutheran Church was completely leveled as well.[5] Some of the debris including paper work were later found about 135 miles away from the village. Eight homes were also destroyed in Black Earth, and 24 additional homes were destroyed between Barneveld and Black Earth. Other tornadoes in Wisconsin caused two additional injuries and about $15 million worth of damage but no additional fatalities.[6][7]

The National Weather Service in Madison reported the next day that the frequency of lightning flashes in the storm visible from Madison exceeded 200 per minute, the flashes running together into a strobe-like effect, as mentioned in media reports and books about the disaster.[8]

The Barneveld tornado was more particular as it was one of the rare tornadoes to occur during the overnight hours well after sunset although EF5/F5 tornadoes have occurred elsewhere during night, including more recently in Greensburg, Kansas, on May 4, 2007 as well as in Birmingham, Alabama, in April 1998, downtown Lubbock, Texas, in 1970, Tanner, Alabama, and Guin, Alabama, in 1974 and Udall, Kansas, in 1955, the last being the deadliest Kansas tornado ever with over 80 deaths.

Outbreak death toll
State Total County County
Iowa 3 Keokuk 1
Mahaska 1
Ringgold 1
Missouri 1 Harrison 1
Wisconsin 9 Iowa 9
Totals 13
All deaths were tornado-related

The Barneveld tornado was the first F5 in Wisconsin since the 1958 Colfax Tornado, which killed 21. It was the first F5 in the US since 2 April 1982 when one touched down near Broken Bow, Oklahoma; the next one occurred on 31 May 1985 in Wheatland, Pennsylvania, during the 1985 United States-Canadian tornado outbreak. The Oakfield Tornado of 18 July 1996, the most recent F5 in Wisconsin, did not cause any fatalities.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NCDC Storm Events-Select State". Archived from the original on 2011-05-05. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  2. ^ "On the original Fujita scale [F0-F5], the damage generated by an F5 tornado corresponded to estimated wind speeds of 262 to 317 mph. However, research has shown that these estimated wind speeds may be over-exaggerated. As of 2007, any tornado that creates damage corresponding to estimated wind speeds of 200 mph or greater [on the Enhanced Fujita Scale] is classified as an EF5 tornado." https://weather.com/tv/shows/tornado-week/news/ef5-f5-most-violent-tornadoes-20140430
  3. ^ http://www.aos.wisc.edu/uwaosjournal/Volume1/AOS453/FCS_Harrington.pdf
  4. ^ "June 8, 1984, Barneveld, WI F5 Tornado". National Weather Service. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  5. ^ http://extremeplanet.me/2012/11/27/the-indefinitive-list-of-the-strongest-tornadoes-ever-recorded-part-iv/
  6. ^ NWS Milwaukee/Sullivan, WI
  7. ^ Barneveld, 1984: 9 Dead, 200 Injured - News Story - WISC Madison Archived September 27, 2007, at channel3000.com Error: unknown archive URL
  8. ^ Extreme Weather, pp 188

External links[edit]