It was a wild year of weather full of extremes. From tornadoes and flash floods to bitter cold and 100 degree heat. Here's a look back at the year that was in 2011with a countdown of the top 10 weather events that impacted us the most here in Western Wisconsin.
#10 April 10th Tornado Outbreak
On the afternoon of April 10th, storms fired in western Wisconsin and charged east producing the largest April tornado outbreak in Wisconsin and the fifth largest of all time for any month.
Two weaker tornadoes caused damage around Augusta.
The damage from an EF-3 tornado that hit the city of Merrill was devastating. Nationwide the month of April was tragic. More than 350-people were killed, from 753-different tornadoes, the most ever in one month.
#9 February 20-21 Snowstorm
This was the largest snowstorm we saw in 2011. It snarled traffic on 1-94 and stranded many people in Eau Claire by the evening of February 20th. The snow lasted into the next day with more than a foot falling across much of western Wisconsin.
#8 Abnormally Dry Second Half of 2011
After a wet start to the year leading to a surplus at one point of around 7 inches of precipitation, things turned very dry in august and by the start of November our surplus fell to less than an inch. The dry conditions created a fire danger in the fall especially after a warm string of 80s back in early October.
#7 Hot Summer Season
It was sweltering summer in 2011. On June 7th we hit 100 degrees in both Eau Claire and La Crosse for the first time since 2006. July was our hottest month with only 5 days not climbing over 80 degrees. It was the 8th warmest July on record in La Crosse with 9 days spent in the 90s.
#6 August 23rd Chili Tornado
During the late afternoon of august 23rd an an EF-2 tornado traveled more than 7 miles hitting hard the small town of chili in Clark county.
No one was killed, but two people were hurt and several homes were destroyed including this house that was knocked off its foundation.
#5 January 19-23 Polar Plunge
2011 kicked off with bitter cold temperatures because of strong surges of arctic air and a snow pack that averaged 20" through the month of January. The biggest polar plunge happened from the 19th to the 23rd. We bottomed out on the 21st at a low of 25 below zero and we were lucky to climb barely above zero that afternoon.
#4 June 18th Flash Flood in Eau Claire
A complex of thunderstorms brought torrential rain for both Eau Claire and La Crosse. The consistent heavy rainfall that evening of June 18th lead to widespread flash flooding across Eau Claire trapping drivers and even causing a mudslide along a section of I-94. A record breaking 4.74" fell over a few hour period on the 18th.
#3 July 1st Extreme Wind Storm
On July 1st a powerful line of storms produced straight line winds in excess of 60 mph with smaller pockets of 100 mph winds around Burnett and Washburn counties. The storm toppled 130,000 acres of trees and was a big blow to both the lumber industry and property owners. Power was out for weeks and sadly one little girl was killed.
#2 May 22 Tornado Outbreak
It hasn't happened since 1965 but on May 22nd during the 10th largest tornado outbreak in state history, a tornado tore right through the heart of La Crosse.
Fortunately the EF-2 tornado weakened as it went through town. Other twisters hit the Sparta area and another EF-2 tornado traveled a staggering 64 miles through Monroe, Juneau, and wood counties.
#1 March 22-23 Winter Storm
But the number one weather event of 2011 was the storm that brought down our 2000 foot tower in Fairchild. The intense winter storm started off with a wintry mix transitioning to heavy, wet snow on the evening of March 22nd. We even had a period of thundersnow. With the accumulation of ice and snow along with strong winds, our tower was no match for Mother Nature in 2011.
Well and there you have it. Pretty incredible top 10 this year. We'll see what 2012 brings us, but you can be sure SkyWarn13 will be on top of it. Have a happy New Year!
Meteorologist Matt Hoffman