Remembering the 'Colfax Tornado' of 1958.
(This story was originally posted on WIWX Facebook page)
Today we remember the June 4th F-5 tornado that swept through west-central Wisconsin back in 1958 that claimed 28 lives, injured dozens, and caused major damage. Especially in the village of Colfax.
Those who remember that day, June 4th started out as an unusually hot, muggy, and breezy day.
Severe thunderstorms began forming across central and east central Minnesota that afternoon and produced an unknown number of tornadoes across eastern parts of the state.
The storms quickly moved east/northeast toward western Wisconsin and crossed the St. Croix river along the MN/WI border around 5 PM CDT.
Awhile Later, a tornado touched down south of Baldwin WI in St. Croix County and continued an east/northeast path toward the town of Knapp in Dunn County.
A Great Aunt and Uncle of mine lived outside of Knapp in a farmhouse at the time of the storm. They described that the tornado looked like a "hand" coming down from the cloud base.
I can only assume from the details my relatives described that the tornado in it's early stages started out as a multiple-vortex funnel.
The home my Great Aunt and Uncle lived in was hit straight on and was severely damaged by the twister as they took shelter in the basement.
They soon emerged from safety to discover their house tore to pieces and their belongings strewn across the landscape.
The tornado continued northeast across central Dunn County causing damage to several homes and farms.
Witnesses described the approaching storm as a fast moving "dark wall".
The tornado became heavily rain wrapped as it tore a path through the Dunn County countryside.
I believe many people were caught off-guard because it was too difficult to recognize a tornado behind the thick curtains of heavy rain.
The tornado then struck the small town of Cedar Falls just a few miles north of Menomonie causing damage to homes and trees.
The tornado is believed to have reached it's peak maturity right before it struck the town of Colfax around 7:05 PM CDT. Several buildings and homes were badly damaged or completely destroyed in Colfax.
The tornado continued to push northeast until it finally weakened and dissipated just west of Bloomer in Chippewa County.
The twister left a 33 mile path of destruction costing up to 10 million dollars in damages.
The storm would go on to be known as the "Colfax Tornado".
So far the Colfax Tornado is 1 out of the 3 officially rated EF-5 tornadoes to hit the state of Wisconsin since 1950.
Several other strong tornadoes were also reported across west-central and northern WI that day from Eau Claire County all the way up into Sawyer County. - JS