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Tropical systems in Wisconsin?

Posted at 4:14 AM, Jun 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-12 04:14:14-04

Wisconsin is known for its short summers, bitter cold and snowy winters, and of course its cheese, but on a rare occasion a tropical system decides to check out the latest variety of cheese in Wisconsin. Well not really, but 4 storms have moved through Wisconsin over the past 120 years.

The latest occurred a few days ago as the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal raced through Wisconsin. Wind speeds of over 30 mph were recorded with gusts over 40 as Cristobal moved through the state. It also dropped a few inches of rain in parts of the state, but how rare is this really?

Records of tropical storms started in 1851 and in 1900 the "Galveston Hurricane" formed over the south central Atlantic August 27th. After creating a path of destruction across Hispanola and Cuba it made its final landfall in Galveston September 8th.

It continued across eastern Texas, central Oklahoma, and eventually a few miles south of Milwaukee before moving into central Michigan and southeastern Canada. This storm was the deadliest natural disaster in United States history, one of the deadliest hurricanes to affect Canada, and the fourth-deadliest Atlantic hurricane overall.

The unnamed hurricane of 1949 has a shocking resemblance to Cristobal. The storm started off the coast of El Salvador in the Pacific Ocean on September 27th as a Tropical Depression. It then moved over Central America and eastern Mexico before re-emerging in the Gulf of Mexico.

One difference of this storm compared to Cristobal was the favorable conditions this storm had in strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, it became a Category 2 storm just before making landfall to the southwest of Galveston in Bay City.

It then followed a similar path to Cristobal and moved through central Arkansas, southeast Missouri and eventually right over Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 was the third storm who tracked over Wisconsin. This storm formed east of the Windward Islands on September 8th and took a similar path to the unnamed storm of 1949, but this storm tracked south of Cuba and moved through the Caribbean before making landfall in the Yucitan Peninsula. Gilbert then re-emerged into the Gulf and strengthened into a Category 4 major hurricane before making its last landfall in eastern Mexico.

Gilbert spawned several tornadoes in southern Texas before curving back toward the northeast and moving over western Texas, central Oklahoma, and eventually extreme southeast Wisconsin.

No storm has cost more in inland states as Hurricane Ike did in 2008. Ike was enhanced by a frontal boundary and produced hurricane force wind gusts and power outages to millions of people in parts of the Midwest. In fact, Ohio alone sustained over $560 million in damages.