East Side tornado

Tree limbs top a car on Rowland Avenue on Saturday after a tornado churned through Madison's East Side.

City streets and forestry crews, utility crews and private contractors are continuing to clean up and assess damage following one of the rarest storms seen in Madison: an October tornado.

National Weather Service personnel in town on Sunday to assess the damage called the tornado “as rare as you can get,” since October historically has one of the lowest number of tornadoes in Wisconsin, and there was no indication that the funnel was forming.

The state climatology office charts tornadoes, with June having the most (30 percent of the total), February the least (no tornadoes recorded), January the second-least (0.2 percent of the total), November and December tied for third least (0.4 percent of the total each), March with 1.1 percent and October with 1.5 percent.

The small twister was rated as a bottom-of-the-scale EF-0, but it still did plenty of damage, especially along and to the north of East Washington Avenue.

Nobody was hurt in the short-lived storm, which ran about four miles along the city’s main East Side thoroughfare from First Street to the Interstate, taking seven minutes to damage buildings, cars and signs, along with dozens of trees.

The tornado then continued along Highway 151 to Sun Prairie, where it caused similar damage.

The total time it was on the ground was 4:58 to 5:12 p.m., the National Weather Service said, and it had wind speeds of 70 to 80 mph.

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The tornado was part of a line of showers that moved through Madison.

“These showers weren’t big/tall enough to produce lightning, but there was enough shear (changing wind directions and wind speeds) and instability, coupled with a very moist atmosphere, to cause many of the showers to rotate,” the Weather Service said.

Emergency crews went out shortly after the tornado went through, then went back out on Sunday to continue clearing away debris.

Chainsaws were prevalent as trees were cut up to be hauled off of homes, vehicles and roads.

City forestry staff was assessing the damage still on Monday, with an estimated 40 to 60 street trees lost and almost 100 trees in city parks.

“Once again, city employees responded to an emergency with professional efficiency,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said Monday. “I know the work continues, but I am grateful to our workers and to Madison Gas and Electric, as roads were opened and power was restored as soon as possible.”

Streets Division officials said 34 tons of brush had been collected from the storm, and crews were taken off leaf collection duty to help with the cleanup.

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