June 7, 1984: On June 7 1984, nine people died and 200 were injured when a tornado slammed into the Iowa County, Wisconsin community of Barneveld. The F5 twister destroyed 90% of the town of 580 residents. What made Barneveld’s tornado rare is it hit overnight. A majority of tornadoes occur between 3 and 9 p.m., and violent tornadoes almost never happen late at night. Many tornadoes show a telltale “hook” shape on radar, but Barneveld’s tornado did not. Meteorologists could see fast-moving storms on radar heading northeast through Grant and Lafayette counties but without the hook, they did not know a tornado was forming. Most people in Barneveld were in bed and didn’t know about the warning unless they happened to be watching television and saw the scrawl on their TV screens. Because power went out a few minutes before the twister hit, Barneveld’s tornado siren never sounded. Lightning flashed so often — more than 200 strikes per minute — that the sky looked like a strobe light, according to the National Weather Service in Madison. The tornado traveled 36 miles for 59 minutes. At its peak, it was nearly a quarter-mile wide. Destroyed were all three of Barneveld’s churches, 93 homes, 17 of the community’s 18 businesses including the library, fire station, bank, post office and municipal building. Barneveld’s water tower was marked by blue paint about halfway up, possibly from a twirling car. A couple sleeping on the upper floor of their house ended up in the basement with their truck on top; they survived. Paper debris including checks, letters, bills and invoices in an area 23 miles wide and 110 miles away.
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