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Rare January Tornado Hits Northern Illinois


A Rare January Tornado in Northern Illinois

A Rare January Tornado in Northern Illinois


A Tornado in January??:

A tornado in the Midwest seems possible. Heck, even predictable in April, May, or June (See the Tornado Season Map). But imagine the surprise as residents in northern Illinois listened to the weather forecasts predicting a tornado in January. Yep, you heard it right. A rare storm popped out of the clouds as temperatures soared in an unseasonably warm January across the Midwest.

Storm History:

On January 7, 2008, two tornadoes were reported along the Wisconsin border at around 3:30 pm. However, after later assessing the damages, the National Weather Service concluded the event was caused by a single tornado. This EF3 tornado had wind speeds of 136 to 165 MPH and a path that extended 13.2 miles long.

Not Tornado Season, But Still Dangerous:

This storm may not have caused extensive damage, but it is noteworthy for its rarity. With weather records going all the way back to 1950, only one other tornado has ever been documented anywhere in north central or northeast Illinois in the month of January. That particular tornado occurred on January 25, 1950 in Kankakee County. And while none of these come close to the devastation of the Chicago tornado of 1967, flooding is reported to have killed at least three people in Indiana from the massive downpour of rain.

The Storm Track:

The Public Information Sheet from the National Weather Service below provides full details on the storm. You can also look at the image of the storm track.

The tornado started at 3:30 pm about 1.2 miles north of Poplar Grove in Boone county and ended at 3:48 pm about 3.2 miles north northeast of Harvard in McHenry county.

The first signs of damage were at Quail Trap road where trees were damaged and sections of roofing were removed from a shed. A large barn was destroyed and other buildings were severely damaged. Large trees were snapped or uprooted. The tornado reached its maximum intensity of EF3 at the northeast corner of Centerville road and Beaverton road. A two story farm house and garage were leveled and large trees were stripped of all branches. The tornado was about 100 yards wide through this area.

There was damage to trees, power lines, barns, and sheds. The tornado then crossed the Boone/McHenry county line as a weak EF0 tornado with just minor tree damage at this point. It crossed Hunter road and continued to track northeast across Ryan road as an EF0 and caused mainly minor tree damage. It crossed White Oaks road then it uprooted a hardwood tree and snapped off pine trees at their base along Maxon road. The tornado intensified as it moved toward the town of Lawrence where it produced the worst damage. Significant damage occurred in the town of Lawrence particularly at a house that had more than half of its roof ripped off and garage blown out.

The tornado then moved across the Chicago and Northwestern railroad where it blew 12 railroad freight cars off the track. The train was moving at the time the tornado hit it...so as the main engine stopped...the remaining cars on the track continued along it and slammed into the front part of the train. This caused a few more cars to derail...including one containing hazardous materials that caused the evacuation of the town of Lawrence.

As the tornado moved east of Lawrence it once again started to weaken with some tree damage and shingles off of a few houses on the northeast side of town. It then ran along Oak Grove road for a stretch where it produced EF1 damage with a hardwood tree snapped at its base and knocked over an old...weakly structured barn with estimated winds around 100 mph. It then headed across farm fields and headed for hwy 14 where it damaged a metal barn and sheared a few trees. As it crossed highway 14 it flipped a semi-trailer and injured the driver at a truck stop weigh station.

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