MILWAUKEE — Strong thunderstorms caused widespread damage across Wisconsin, left tens of thousands without power and triggered tornado warnings.
The severe weather stretched from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan and began Wednesday evening in northwestern Wisconsin. By 2 a.m. Thursday, the numerous tornado warnings around the state had expired.
The National Weather Service had two crews out surveying damage in the Jefferson County community of Concord and in the Waukesha County Village of Wales Thursday in southeastern Wisconsin.
Meteorologist Denny VanCleve in Sullivan said there’s a good chance that it was a tornado, or possibly two, that caused widespread damage.
The NWS on Wednesday warned that the severe weather sweeping across upper Midwest states could include hurricane force winds and tornadoes and develop into a derecho — a rare type of storm.
“If not a derecho, it was close,” VanCleve said. “You need wind damage more than 240 miles long and gusts of 58 mph for most of its length” for a derecho, often described as an inland hurricane.
A determination on whether the storm could be classified as a derecho would be made later, VanCleve said.
Utility crews worked to restore service to the thousands of power customers who lost service across the state. Electricity was knocked out to about 90,000 customers across the state, according to the tracking website PowerOutage, US.
The tornado warnings started in Wausau and eventually were issued for Waukesha, Jefferson and Milwaukee counties around 1 a.m. Thursday.
The National Weather Service placed nearly the entire state of Wisconsin under a severe thunderstorm watch until 2 a.m. Thursday.
A 70 mph wind gust was reported at 8:40 p.m. Wednesday in Merrill in Lincoln County, according to the weather service. Numerous trees and power lines were reported down in Merrill.
A 78 mph wind gust was reported at Weston in Marathon County at 9 p.m., according to the weather service. Sustained winds of 74 mph are required for a Category 1 hurricane.
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