Unusual October tornado hits east Madison

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Tornado season in the Midwest ends around July, but this year Madison was an exception to that rule. For about 10 minutes Saturday night, a tornado ripped through the East Side of the city, hitting parts of both business-heavy East Washington Avenue and surrounding residential neighborhoods alike.

It touched down from 4:58 p.m. to 5:08 p.m., traveling mostly along East Washington Avenue, according to the National Weather Service. The tornado was first spotted near the Dane County Regional Airport and tracked five miles northeast toward Interstate 30/90.

National Weather Service officials classified it as an EF0 — the weakest rating on a scale meteorologists use to rate tornado intensity. Still, the storm wreaked havoc on the area, peeling parts of roofs off of buildings, uprooting trees and scattering debris all around.

Amul Harris, who runs Serieux Clothing on the 3300 block of East Washington Avenue, said his store suffered “substantial” damage from the storm.

“It just came out of nowhere,” Harris said. “I felt like my whole building was shaking. And then it sounded like my roof was getting ready to get pulled off. I walked up to the door to look outside and all I could see was stuff flying everywhere.”

Despite damage to the roof of Serieux Clothing, which is littered with fallen signage, Harris said his store will remain open and operate as usual.

But getting back to normal immediately after the tornado isn’t going to be possible for everyone. 4 Seasons Car Wash, a business down the road, will only be able to operate at 50 percent after last night when the walls of three of its six car wash stalls were wiped out.

“It’s pretty much going to have to be rebuilt,” said 4 Seasons Car Wash owner Bruce Sayles. “I’m just happy that out of everywhere that got damaged, nobody was killed.”

While businesses on East Washington Avenue seemed to bear the brunt of the damage, surrounding neighborhoods were also affected. Matt Mueller, whose property and garage were damaged in the tornado, said Sunday that after spending numerous hours cleaning up the debris around his home, he was only about halfway done.
“My initial reaction was, ‘man, that’s a lot of damage,’” Mueller said.

Mueller said there was sunshine “almost immediately after” he heard the trees on his property breaking and falling, with one hitting his garage.

Another area resident, Jason Dwars, also recalls how quickly the tornado came and went.

“I had my hand on the doorway to the basement — I was getting ready to go down — but by that time it was already over.”

A tornado hitting Wisconsin in October is uncommon but “not unprecedented,” according to the National Weather Service.

by Gina Heeb
October 8, 2017

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Kyrie Wagner