Brookfield, WI tornado, May 1982


By Mark Massa

Brookfield - Neighbors sipped their morning coffee as they walked from house to house Sunday, surveying the damage caused by a small tornado.

The peaceful, sunny morning drew a stark contrast to the debris left scattered after violent winds ripped through the Imperial Estates subdivision late Saturday afternoon.

Construction crews and neighbors worked through the night Saturday and all day Sunday in the aftermath of the storm, which damaged 25 homes in the area bounded by Capitol Dr., Lisbon Rd., Calhoun Rd. and Imperial Dr.

Six of the homes were damaged severely, Fire Chief Jim Mehring said. He estimated Sunday that damaged would approach $500,000.

The tornado's winds probably gusted at 150 to 200 mph, Chris Garcia of the National Weather Service said Sunday.

No one was injured, although firefighter Clarence Tipton was treated at the scene Saturday for a stiff neck after a ceiling collapsed on him. Tipton returned to work shortly after the accident.

Police shut off the area Saturday afternoon, issuing passes to residences and others who might have reason to be in the neighborhood.

Connie Marquardt, 17450 Penbrook La., said she was in her garage cooking on a grill when the tornado came through.

"It sounded like a huge roar," Marquardt said Sunday morning. "It looked like a big dark cloud of smoke coming over the houses down there," she said, pointing to the south.

"It was really moving fast," Marquardt said, "and that's when I knoew it wasn't any ordinary storm. We all just ran downstairs."

Marquardt said she had never seen a tornado before, and added, "I never want to see one again, either."

Colleen Zimmer, 12, of 17430 Penbrook La., said the storm scared her.

"We had just barely gone inside when it hit," Zimmer said. "It sounded like a lightning bolt."

The storm imbedded a wooden plank into the side of the Zimmer house, shattering a mirror inside. By Sunday morning, the plank had been removed and the hole had been patched.

The Carl Bergstrom residence, 17410 Echo La., was the first to be hit by the tornado, which came from the south at 5:18 p.m.

The front yard appeared undamaged, but the house's roof was gone, as was the garage. A boat sat in the garage's remains, surrounded by broken pieces of the walls. The house's chimney collapsed onto a bed inside.

The Bergstroms were away when the tornado hit.

The Bergstroms' son, Daryl, 29, of New Berlin, arrived on the scene minutes after the tornado hit.

"The damage had already been done," he said Sunday. "I was more concerned about getting ahold of family members."

A construction crew put a temporary plastic roof on the home Sunday.

The Bergstroms' neighbor directly to the north, John Allen, had the roof taken off the home at 17375 Penbrook La. His garage was destroyed. A bicycle was wrapped around a tree in the front yard like a twist-tie on a sandwich bag.

No tornado warning or watch was in effect when the tornado struck, the weather service said.

"There wasn't any warning at all," Mehring said. "It was just a freak incident. The weather bureau is calling it a mini-tornado, but try telling these citizens it's a mini-tornado. I've seen a few worse than this, but they're all bad."

Officially, the weather service classified the storm as a small tornado.

It was the second time in five years that a tornado hit Brookfield. In April 1977, a stronger tornado caused more than $2 million damage when it touched down in the Camelot Meadows subdivision, just north of North Ave.

Some severe weather was reported in Wisconsin Sunday. Quarter- to half-inch hail was reported in La Crosse and Auburndale (Wood County) in the afternoon, the weather service said. Thunderstorms with rain and hail also were reported in Portage, Waushara, Outagamie and Waupaca Counties.

There is a 50% chance of thunderstorms in Milwaukee Monday. The high temperature will be around 80 inland, but only in the 60s near Lake Michigan.

The Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI May 17 1982