Stockbridge, WI tornado, Aug 1979


Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that swept across the Milwaukee area and southern Wisconsin Thursday night spread wind and fire damage over a wide area and left a Wisconsin woman and an Illinois man dead.

There were power failures throughout the storm area, caused primarily by lightning knocking out transformers and fuses.

Dennis Kols, a spokesman for Wisconsin Electric Power Co. in Milwaukee, said power was still out in a few scattered areas Friday morning. Residents in those areas had gone to bead early and did not notice the lack of electricity until morning.

He said the major problem areas Thursday night were north and west of Milwaukee in the Grafton, West Bend and Elkhart Lake areas. Crews worked all night, but the problems were small, he said.

In Milwaukee the storm hit just after the Billy Graham Crusade let out for the night at County Stadium and as the State Fair was winding down.

Some chairs and umbrellas were overturned, but there was no serious damage reported at the fairgrounds.

A lightning strike at the Douglas Rossi residence, 1515 N. 49th St., caused damage estimated at $6,000 to the roof and second floor loft. The lightning started a fire, which was extinguished in about 45 minutes.

Victoria McLendon, 41, of rural Stockbridge, was killed about 7:20 p.m. when a fireplace chimney collapesed on her, Calumet County authorities said.

Mrs. McLendon was in the living room of her home at Rockland Beach on Lake Winnebago when a tornado apparently hit. "The floor dropped to the basement along with the fireplace on the first floor, and she was crushed to death by the fireplace," Calumet County Coroner Le Roy A. Hughes said.

Other persons in the home were not seriosuly injured. A cottage across the road was also damaged.

The Illinois man, LeRoy A. Zeitz, 38, of Orland Park, who was vacationing with his family near Green Lake, was struck by a car about 11:30 p.m. on Highway AW on the Dodge County - Green Lake County line while he was using a chain saw to try to remove a tree that had fallen across the road about six miles west of Waupun.

Officials said several fires in Ozaukee County were caused by lightning.

Rainfall totals for the six hours ending at 1 a.m. included .53 of an inch in Milwaukee, 1.15 inches in Madison and .50 of an inch at Green Bay.

The National Weather Service said Friday that there were 14 sightings of tornadoes during the storm, which was spawned by a cold front from the west meeting a warm front from the south.

At Green Bay, the police and fire departments and St. Vincent and Bellin Hospitals switched to emergency power sources for about a half hour.

Half inch hail was reported in the Ripon area, and there was knee deep water on some streets in Sheboygan.

The Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, WI 11 Aug., 1979