A dark and dangerous night

Tornadoes drop on southeast Wisconsin during Saturday’s storms

Compiled by Jodie Seibert and Jennifer Eisenbart  |  STAFF WRITERS

When Saturday bloomed hot and humid, Wisconsinites were warned about the possibility of severe weather.

What transpired Saturday evening, though, quickly turned into a dangerous situation for the southeast third of the state.

According to the National Weather Service out of Milwaukee/Sullivan, six different tornadoes have so far been confirmed in the state – two in Walworth County.

The largest was an EF-2 that touched down closed to Janesville, while four EF-1 tornadoes and one EF-0 were registered as of Monday.

In addition to the two EF-1s in Walworth County, the storm line along I-94 spawned two others – one touched down near Marshall and the other west of Watertown. There was confirmation of an EF-0 in Grant County.

“It was a busy day,” said Andrew Quigley, a meteorologist out of the Milwaukee/Sullivan office.

The most local damage was done by what is being called the Williams Bay tornado. There are multiple reports of extensive damage to homes and property in the village, though no weather-related injuries or deaths.

(Photo courtesy of Chicago and Midwest Storm Chasers) A home received a lot of dam-age after a tornado moved through the Janesville area on the evening of June 22.

Janesville and Rock County

The strongest tornado of them caused a great deal of damage in Janesville, where Quigley said it traveled about five and a half to six and a half miles on the ground.

The EF-2 touched down on the southwest side of Janesville, went across US-51, and then lifted on the southeast side of town.

The National Weather Service (NWS) report confirmed the EF-2 tornado with estimated peak winds of 115 mph around 7:42 p.m. to 7:53 p.m. on Saturday. Most of the damage was at an EF-1 level, but some places on the southern side of Janesville had greater damage, according to the report.

A NWS meteorologist warned locals to stay away from floodwaters, any downed power lines and unsafe trees with loose branches.

Locals are also reminded that anyone with storm damage can report it to the NWS, including on their website, Facebook and X (formerly Twitter).

The next day, on Sunday, National Weather Service crews were out assessing damage in areas including Argyle, Marshall, Janesville, Watertown, Walworth, Williams Bay, Sun Prairie and DeForest.

In Argyle, a historic church, the Apple Grove Lutheran Church, was demolished. The church had been at the site since 1893. In a post on the church website, Pastor Dan Bohlman said, “It is with the deepest sadness that I have to share with you that Apple Grove was hit by a tornado this evening. The church is completely destroyed.” Bohlman had been pastor at the church since 1992.

In Rock County, at approximately 8 p.m. on June 22, Rock County Sheriff’s Office, Janesville Police Department, Janesville Fire Department, Beloit Police Department, Beloit Fire Department, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Rock County Communications Center, Rock County Emergency Management, and Rock County Department of Public Works responded to reports of severe weather damage on the south side of the City of Janesville and in the Town of Rock.

As units arrived in the area, they verified damage ranging from minor to significant and encountered debris closing roadways. Damage to power infrastructure caused outages on the south side of the City of Janesville and in the Town of Rock. No injuries were reported.

Janesville Deputy City Manager Ryan McCue spoke about the damage Sunday. “As you all know last night [June 22],” McCue said, “the City of Janesville, along with parts of Rock County, experienced a tornado, and we have significant damage throughout the city. Keeping our affected residents and helping them is our top priority. We want everyone to assume that wires that are down or entangled in a trees are live, and do not touch them, and trees can conduct electricity, so we want everyone to remain safe while we clean up this mess. Currently there are no known

injuries from this tornado. There was a report of one household with trapped residents in the basement. The fire department was able to rescue them. We have many partners in the City of Janesville helping us out, with Rock County, the City of Beloit, the Southwest Incident Management Team, Wisconsin Emergency Management, the State Control, DNR [Department of Natural Resources], 12 neighboring fire departments, SWEPT [Southern Wisconsin Emergency Preparedness Team], Red Cross, Salvation Army, and ECHO [Everyone Cooperating to Help Others]. We are currently doing drone assessments above the affected area, and we have our building inspectors inspecting affected properties.”

He also mentioned that McFarland Farms suffered a lot of damage, as did parts of the Town of Rock.

Further damage assessments will come at a later time.

(Photo courtesy Mary Jo Erickson of Erickson Funeral Homes) In Argyle, the Apple Grove Lutheran Church was leveled after a storm moved through the area late Saturday. According to the parish website, the historic church was destroyed by a tornado Saturday evening.

Williams Bay and Lake Geneva

According to Quigley, two tornadoes touched down close to one another in Walworth County – including the Williams Bay tornado – around 8:22 p.m. Saturday night.

That EF-1 tornado started on the far east side of Delavan and tracked down to the north shore of Geneva Lake.

It had estimated peak winds of about 105 miles per hour, and traveled about six miles on the ground.

“Really, it was a lot of tree damage along that path,” Quigley explained. “Some minor property damage.”

A drone film taken by the Chicago and Midwest Stormchasers showed heavy damage to some homes in the Bailey Estates subdivisions, including missing roofs, siding peeled away and a variety of what could best be termed “holes” in homes.

The village was still working to restore all power and utility services as of Monday. An update from the Williams Bay Police Department said Alliant Energy had expected restoration times on its website, and that electric service needed to be restored before WE Energies could reconnect natural gas at residences.

Other information out of Williams Bay as of Monday:

• Theater Road remained closed to traffic. Residents were advised to use highways F and 67 for north and south bound commuting.

• Cedar Point was still being serviced, with repairs underway.

• The lakefront, according to police, was “battered” with downed trees. Residents were advised not to climb on the downed trees, and Williams Bay Beach was closed until further notice.

• Barrett Memorial Library was set to remain open until 8 p.m. at least Monday and Tuesday for both cooling purposes and the charging of phone and other electronics. High humidity and warmer temperatures were expected to move back into the area Tuesday.

The Williams Bay Police Department continued Sunday and Monday to use Facebook to post press releases, and reassure residents.

The other Walworth County tornado touched down south of Geneva Lake, then tracked northeast across it, Quigley explained, traveling southwest to northeast.

He said the tornado then “shot out” the other side of the lake, went across Highway 50 in Lake Geneva and traveled all the way to the south shore of Lake Como, where it then lifted.

The path of that tornado was about 5.3 miles, with peak winds of about 100 miles an hour. Again, the area saw a lot of downed trees and tree damage.

Quigley did say however, that a dock on Geneva Lake suffered “severe damage.” Wooden planks from that dock traveled about 500 yards to the northeast, and the canopy on the dock was also damaged.

(Jennifer Eisenbart photo) While there was no tornado in Delavan, damage from the storm was evident. This house near the historic downtown area of the city had both a tree and an old antenna tower fall on it.

Other areas affected

In spite of initial concerns Saturday evening, there were no confirmed tornados in Racine or Kenosha County.

And while social media was later flooded with pictures of the storm system – and videos that likely captured the tornados on the ground – Quigley stressed that safety is paramount.

“We always want to message that safety,” the meteorologist explained. “The pictures can look really cool, but nothing is worth your life.”

Quigley said, much like the situation on Geneva Lake, the biggest danger is from flying debris.

If there is a tornado warning, he stressed, take cover. Go to basement or an interior room with no windows, and take cover.

NWS crews are also surveying more communities as cleanup efforts continue.


*The information presented here was accurate as of June 25, 2024*