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The 2015 Darlington, Wisconsin Tornado was a destructive and violent tornado that hit the town of Darlington on July 25, 2015. The tornado almost completely destroyed the northern part of town, causing 34 deaths and 58 injuries. The tornado was officially rated as a High-End EF4, but this ranking is disputed.


Meteorological Synopsis

On July 21, the SPC released their Day 5 outlook, highlighting a substantial and widespread risk for severe weather from southern Missouri to The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, valid for July 25. This threat area was maintained in the Day 5 outlook and narrowed to a corridor from Southeastern Illinois to Northern Wisconsin in their day 4 outlook. An enhanced risk was maintained until a Moderate risk was introduced in the Day 2 Outlook on the 24th. This risk stayed on the 25th. The catalyst for the severe weather outbreak came as a positively-tilted shortwave trough progressed across the central High Plains into the Great Plains and eventually through the western Great Lakes region. A weaker disturbance pushed from the Ozarks into the Northeastern United States, acting to strengthen southwesterly winds aloft across the risk area. At the surface, a weak area of low pressure initially centered over northeastern Kansas early on July 25 progressed steadily northeast while intensifying, reaching the trisection of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois by late that evening. A cold front stemming from the low progressed eastward across the Mid-South, whereas an arching warm front slowly pushed northward across eastern Iowa and northern Illinois. Modest surface heating ahead of the cold front allowed mid-level CAPE values to exceed 4500 j/kg,and a mass of rich moisture transported northward from the Gulf of Mexico pushed dewpoints into the lower 60s °F across the Moderate Risk Area.

The SPC issued a PDS tornado watch for southern Wisconsin and Northern illinois at 1:20 PM. The outbreak only produced 5 other tornadoes, all of which were rated EF1-2. The cell that eventually would produce the tornado prompted the issuance of a Severe thunderstorm warning at 1:49 PM, Which then became a tornado warning at 2:20 PM due to strong rotation noted in the cell. The tornado then touched down at 2:31.

Storm Track

The tornado initially touched down as a weak rope tornado 3 miles Southwest of Darlington. However, as the tornado progressed, it gained strength, becoming a large wedge. The tornado hit the southern part of the city at EF3 strength, severely damaging homes and businesses. The tornado then hit EF4 intensity as it hit downtown, tearing apart buildings in Downtown Darlington. The tornado hit peak strength in the northeastern part of the city, with a gust of 206 MPH being recorded. A well built house anchored to its foundation was completely destroyed. However, the NWS wrote this off as "Poor Construction", as a fencepost was left standing not too far from the house. The tornado began to lose strength after it exited city limits, and completely dissipated at 3:23 PM.

Aftermath

The tornado completely destroyed northern Darlington, with several homes being destroyed. Then Governor Scott Walker declared Darlington a disaster zone one day after the tornado hit. On July 28th, Then president Obama flew over the city, and remarked that it was some of the worst damage he had ever seen. 34 People were killed and 58 were injured. The tornado caused over 3 Million dollars in damage, and left a scar that was visible to planes flying over 20,000 feet in the air.

Rating Dispute

The rating of High-end EF4 is disputed by meteorologists, as a well built house anchored to its foundation was completely destroyed. But the NWS claimed that the house was poorly built, as a fencepost was left standing. Due to this, the tornado has been called "The goldsby of the north", as the 2011 Goldsby tornado was ranked similarly.

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