Severe weather takes lives in Wisconsin

Communities across Wisconsin have been whipped by severe weather over the last couple of days. A heat wave, heavy rainfall, high winds and tornadoes descend on the state this week. Wisconsin Emergency Management reported damage from Monroe to Marinette counties. Nearly two dozen counties and tribal emergency management offices have reported damage to trees, buildings and numerous downed power lines. Monroe County has declared a state of emergency as the Stockbridge-Munsee Nation. No statewide emergency declaration has been requested so far.

A large tree completely down in Madison following severe storms. (Photo | Ruth Conniff)

In Milwaukee County, severe weather has occurred in Kenosha, Madison and elsewhere. As of July 15, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office tweeted that it describes two probable heat-related deaths. One was a 39-year-old woman in Milwaukee; the other victim was an 89-year-old man in Greenfield. The deaths came as much of Wisconsin experienced a heat wave, bringing the heat index to 99 degrees. Several other states were also experiencing heat waves, setting record temperatures in some cities including Chicago, and Atlanta.

Scorching heat in the day turned to heavy rainfall and severe thunderstorms by night. On Monday, rain drenching cities were accompanied by a booming cacophony of thunder and jagged streaks of lightning. In Madison, large trees were ripped from the ground, and entire blocks strewn with debris as skies turned black at night in the middle of the afternoon. Tuesday brought more severe heat and evening storms, as well as news that the body of a 10-year-old boy had been recovered in Milwaukee County. He’d been swept into a drainage ditch as the heavy rains fell across the state. Two men who jumped in after the boy have yet to be found.

Storm damage in Kenosha.  (Photo | Kenosha Police Department, Twitter)
Storm damage in Kenosha. (Photo | Kenosha Police Department, Twitter)

A tornado touched down in Tomah and traveled 15 miles northeast through Monroe County. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office reported the tornado down several trees, power lines and barns, causing a widespread power outage. Wisconsin Emergency Management is reporting that power to about 89,000 Wisconsinites remains disconnected. In Columbia County, the sheriff’s office gathered 68 reports of downed trees and power lines. As of July 16, the Kenosha Police Department reported downed power lines and fallen trees that closed roadways.

The weather is part of a persistent trend over recent years. In the summer of 2021, severe thunderstorms downed more than 600 trees in Milwaukee, resulting in a lengthy clean-up process. In mid-December, temperatures reached as high as 61 degrees in Milwaukee and even higher in Madison — among the highest temperatures ever recorded during the month of December for both cities.

A picture of a
A picture of a “likely” tornado in progress in Tomah, taken at 4:03 pm. (Photo | Trey Greenwood, Twitter)

Around the same time, the National Guard warned of severe storms creating winds of 40 miles per hour, and tornadoes in southwestern Wisconsin. The Midwest had already seen a flurry of at least 39 tornadoes in a single week that year, which caused 88 deaths and millions of dollars in damage.

Scientists have long warned that severe and destructive weather would become more prevalent due to climate change. Carbon dioxide levels are now at the highest point they’ve ever been in human history. Global CO2 levels have now passed 400 parts per million, and beyond scientists who could harbor even worse effects.

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