USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin | Green Bay Press-Gazette
Editor’s note: The USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin is making these severe weather updates free for everyone to read as a public service.
Strong winds are expected to last throughout the day Thursday before subsiding at night, according to the National Weather Service.
The strong thunderstorms that hit central Wisconsin moved northeast, with the most severe storms missing the Fox Valley and the Green Bay area.
Roy Eckberg, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Green Bay, said the worst of the windstorm was overnight and continuing into Thursday morning, with strong winds all day and gusts of over 40 mph in the afternoon.
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After record highs were set in many cities in Wisconsin, cold weather moved in on Thursday with more seasonal temperatures and highs in the 30s.
Wisconsin Public Service was busy, with more than 50,000 customers without power as of 6:30 a.m. Thursday.
Here are the updates from the storm:
Sheboygan reports 66 mph wind, highest in state
10:25 a.m. Sixteen locations in southern Wisconsin experienced winds surpassing 50 and 60 miles an hour during a windstorm that carried over into Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Milwaukee.
As of 6 a.m., the highest wind speed of 66 miles an hour was recorded at the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport. Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Fond du Lac and rural Sauk County also experienced winds of 60 miles an hour or more.
Other communities with recorded wind speeds between 50 and 59 miles an hour include Madison, Monroe, Waukesha, Baraboo, East Troy, Middleton, Juneau, West Bend, Reedsburg and Watertown.
Burlington and Janesville recorded wind speeds as high as 48 and 47 miles an hour.
— Elliot Hughes
High winds to continue through the day
10:20 a.m. Southern Wisconsin residents can expect blustery conditions to continue through Thursday, the National Weather Service said.
A wind advisory remains in effect until 5 p.m. for much of southern and central Wisconsin. Lingering gusts of up to 45 mph will be possible.
Colder air is working its way into the region with temperatures expected to hover in the mid-30s to low 40s, with wind chills in the 20s, the weather service said.
MPS students without power should go to public libraries for virtual school
9:45 a.m. Public school students in Milwaukee whose school has shifted online but do not have power at home after the powerful windstorm are being encouraged to visit public libraries for virtual learning.
Milwaukee Public Schools forwarded the same advice to staff who also do not have power in their homes.
Most public libraries in Milwaukee, however, do not open until 11 a.m.
Last night’s windstorm has knocked out power for nearly 49,000 people in the Milwaukee area as of 9:30 a.m. Thursday, according to an outage map from We Energies.
The outages forced 14 public schools in Milwaukee to shift to online learning Thursday.
In a news release, Milwaukee Public Schools indicated that students and staff in affected schools can expect additional outreach from their child’s teacher for instructions on virtual learning.
— Elliot Hughes
Downed trees strike homes in southern Wisconsin, large structural damage avoided
9:13 a.m. The bulk of damages reported in the Milwaukee area, and southern Wisconsin in general, from the windstorm overnight appears to have mostly amounted to downed trees and power lines, according to the National Weather Service in Sullivan.
A map of storm reports maintained by the National Weather Service shows downed tree limbs in Brown Deer, Waukesha and Slinger.
“In comparison to everywhere west and south of us, we didn’t have nearly as many downed trees or downed power lines,” said meteorologist Taylor Patterson, referring to southern Wisconsin.
The National Weather Service map indicated some of those downed trees did strike homes. Around 11 p.m. Wednesday in Slinger, a “very large” tree branch fell on a house near Highway 60 and Slinger Road.
Another tree limb reportedly fell on a home in Middleton shortly after 4:30 a.m.
Still, Patterson said the region had largely escaped “big structural damage.”
Power outages cause school closures
8:27 a.m. As of 7:35 a.m. Thursday, 14 Milwaukee Public Schools have moved to virtual learning Thursday after high winds overnight caused power outages affecting 77,000 people throughout the city.
The move affects the following schools:
- Brown Street Academy
- Grant Gordon Learning Center
- Albert E. Kagel School
- Escuela Vieau
- Lloyd Barbee Montessori School
- James Fenimore Cooper School
- Ralph Waldo Emerson School
- Humboldt Park School
- Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts
- Frances Starms Discovery Learning Center
- Starms Early Childhood Center
- Oliver Wendell Holmes School
- Dr. George W. Carver Academy of Mathematics and Science
- James E. Groppi High School
In northeastern Wisconsin, classes were canceled or are in a two-hour delay:
- Crivitz (two-hour delay)
- D.C. Everest (two-hour delay)
- Gibraltar (two-hour delay)
- Green Bay School District Head Start Learning Center in Bellevue
- Menomine Indian Head Start
- Menominee Indian (two-hour delay)
- Neillsville (two-hour delay)
- Oconto Falls (two-hour delay)
- Port Edwards
- Sevastopol (two-hour delay)
- Shawano (two-hour delay)
- Stanley Boyd
- Tigerton (two-hour delay)
- Wabeno (tour-hour delay)
- Wausaukee (two-hour delay)
Stanley police report widespread damage; schools in area closed
6 a.m.: The Stanley Police Department reported damage across the community early Thursday as a result of the late-night storm that swept through Chippewa and Clark counties on its march across the state.
The police department, on its Facebook page, said about 75% of Excel Energy customers had been without power since 9:15 p.m. Wednesday as utility crews were “working feverishly” to restore service.
The department advised people to “resist the temptation” to travel around Stanley on Thursday morning to see the damage because of the danger of downed and active power lines.
Police also posted photos showing some of the damage, but reported no known deaths or injuries.
The department said Stanley-Boyd schools would be closed Thursday. Nearby Thorp also closed schools for the day because of a power outage.
Gusts in the 60s and 70s recorded in spots
5:50 a.m.: The National Weather Service in Green Bay reported that peak wind gusts reached 76 mph in Rhinelander and 74 mph in Marshfield, as well as 62 mph in Wausau and 60 mph in Ashwaubenon.
“This may not be the peak gusts as many locations are still gusting near these values,” the weather service posted on Twitter, where it shared peak gusts recorded as of 4 a.m. Thursday.
Here is a look at some of the highest wind reports that we’ve seen over the past 6 hours (as of 4 am 12/16) across northeast Wisconsin! This may not be the peak gusts as many locations are still gusting near these values. Look for updated peak winds later today! #wiwx pic.twitter.com/fuBz5GFzrh
— NWS Green Bay (@NWSGreenBay) December 16, 2021
Strong winds move into eastern Wisconsin
11:31 p.m. The storm system that sped across the state moved into eastern Wisconsin late Wednesday. The National Weather Service reported “very strong winds will accompany a band of showers” into the early hours of Thursday. The area could see wind gusts as high as 50 to 60 mph.
The affected counties include Forence, Menominee, Door, Shawano, Outagamie, Brown, Kewaunee, Calumet, Manitowoc, Marinette and Oconto
The high wind warning is in effect until 9 a.m. Thursday.
WPS reports outages in central Wisconsin
11:23 p.m. In the aftermath of the storm front, Wisconsin Public Service is dealing with power outages from Stevens Point to Eagle River in central and northern Wisconsin.
About 4,500 outages were reported in Portage County and almost 3,800 in Marathon County. A total of 17,197 outages were reported in WPS service area as of 11:23 p.m.
Severe thunderstorm warnings move west
10:45 p.m. The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for parts of Forest, Oneida, Waupaca, Oconto and Shawano counties as well as Menominee and Langlade counties.
The front was moving northeast at 65 mph and could contain wind gusts of 70 mph.
Once the storm front moves through, strong windstorms are still expected behind it.
Wind gusts in Marshfield, Wisconsin Rapids
10:19 p.m. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of 69 mph at the airport in Wisconsin Rapids and 54 mph at the airport in Marshfield. The weather service urged people in the line of the storm to seek shelter.
A wind gust of 69 mph was just reported at the airport in Wisconsin Rapids!!! Seek shelter as the line of severe storms heads east across the area!! #wiwx
— NWS Green Bay (@NWSGreenBay) December 16, 2021
Thunderstorm warning for 6 counties
9:55 p.m. A thunderstorm warning has been issued for Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Portage, Waushara and Wood counties until 11 p.m.
Leo Frigo bridge warning in Green Bay
9:41 p.m. Green Bay Police warned drivers to avoid the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge when high winds are present. “If wind thresholds get met tonight, there may be a bridge closure,” the police said.
Severe thunderstorm watches for central, southern, eastern Wis.
9:37 p.m. The National Weather Service has extended its severe thunderstorm watches to 28 counties as the storm enters central Wisconsin. The storm is moving about 60-70 mph.
The thunderstorm watch is in effect until 1 .am. Thursday for the following B counties: Brown, Calumet, Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Forest, Green, Green Lake, Jefferson, Kewaunee, Langlade, Lincoln, Manitowoc, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Rock, Shawano, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, Waupaca and Winnebago.
937 PM | Severe Thunderstorms are entering central WI. Yellow boxes show Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. Red boxes show Tornado Warnings. Storms are moving about 60-70 mph. Storms will quickly across the area late this evening. Seek shelter when storms approach! #wiwx pic.twitter.com/vzGe1b1kpD
— NWS Green Bay (@NWSGreenBay) December 16, 2021
9:15 p.m. The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Clark and Taylor county until 10 p.m. due to a “severe squall line capable of producing both tornadoes and extensive straight line wind damage” near Neillsville. It was moving northeast at 80 mph.
9:05 p.m. The leading edge of the storms was about 20 miles from the Wood County border, according to a Facebook post from the the National Weather Service in Green Bay.
It is scheduled to reach the Fox Valley and Green Bay between 11 p.m. and midnight.
Thirty-four counties were under a tornado watch, the National Weather Service issued Wednesday evening. The watches began at 5:30 p.m. and run until 11 p.m.
The counties under the tornado watch are Adams, Barron, Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jackson, Juneau, Lafayette, La Crosse Marathon, Marquette, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Richland, Rusk, Sauk, St. Croix, Taylor, Trempeleau, Vernon, Waushara and Wood.
A high wind warning will go into effect at 9 p.m. Wednesday until 9 a.m. Thursday for Waushara, Calumet, Winnebago, Brown, Outagamie and Waupaca counties, which can expect southwest winds of 25 to 35 miles per hour with gusts reaching up to 60 mph.
These high winds may be damaging, potentially blowing down trees and power lines. The National Weather Service said some power outages should be expected, and driving may be treacherous for high-profile vehicles.
The National Weather Service advises people to take precautions and stay in the lower parts of homes and try to avoid windows during the windstorms.
The strong winds are also creating a storm warning affecting the nearshore water of Lake Michigan from Washington Island to Sheboygan, beginning 9 p.m. Wednesday and lasting until noon Thursday. Large waves may reach 12 to 17 feet.
Dense fog continues to reduce visibility Wednesday evening, especially where there is snow on the ground.
This story will be updated.