Summer Heat & Severe Storms

Much of the Midwest and Eastern U.S. over the past few days have dealt with hot and extremely humid conditions.  Our area saw the hot streak get underway on Sunday, July 17th as temperatures in many locales reached into the 90s.  Along with that from Sunday to Wednesday, dew point values were running at the top of the charts for the Badger State, well into the 70s and even lower 80s.  Below is a breakdown of the highs during this period.  The hottest readings on this list were recorded in Wisconsin Rapids, which on 7/20 tied their record high of 96.

Now technically, this was not a true heat wave by definition in Wausau, Rhinelander and Marshfield, because there were only 2 consecutive days of 90 degree or higher temperatures.  Wisconsin Rapids on the other hand had 4 days in a row.  A true heat wave is 3 or more days when the mercury hits 90+.  A minor detail perhaps, but that's how we refer to it when it comes to the weather record book.

As for the heat index or what it felt like outside during this time, here are a few examples.  In Medford on 7/18 the high was 91 degrees with a dew point of 81.  That translated to a heat index of 115 degrees.  Meantime in Wausau on that same Monday, the high made it to 94, with a dew point at 77, equating to a heat index of 108.  Excessive heat indeed.  Of course with all of this hot and humid air, it was only a matter of time for storms to pop up over in the area.  Sure enough, 3 out of the 4 days featured storms producing heavy downpours and damaging winds, which raked through parts of our region.  Here's the breakdown.

Sunday July 17th
The day started out with foggy conditions, quickly yielding to a fair amount of sunshine by mid-morning, while temperatures soared.  By late afternoon, most locations had hit the low to mid 90s.  With the very humid airmass in place, flood watches were issued for Price, Taylor and Clark Counties.  However, that is not where the gully washer type storms developed.  Instead, severe storms blew up in NW Wisconsin and pushed into Vilas County right around 6pm.  The line of storms stayed put over this area for a good 2 hours, dumping anywhere from 3-5" of rain, causing widespread localized flooding.  As the evening wore on, the storms shifted southeast, leading to additional severe storm warnings, due to damaging winds.  Winds gusted anywhere from 50-65 mph, producing numerous power outages and downed trees.  The storms rolled through Rhinelander just before 8pm and hit Wausau just after 9pm.

Monday July 18th
A couple rounds of storms affected North Central Wisconsin on Monday.  The first and more potent in nature arrived in Central Wisconsin close to 7am and quickly shifted southeast from Marathon into Wood, Portage and Waupaca Counties between 8 & 9am.  Once again, the calling card from these storms were heavy downpours of rain with anywhere from a half to one inch falling in less than an hour, along with wind gusts up to 60 mph.  There were reports of down trees in Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point, Plover and Waupaca.  Later in the afternoon, a broken line of showers and storms slid south through the area.  Although initially leading to storm warnings in the north, they stayed fairly run of the mill in intensity until working into the Fox Valley, where some trees were downed near New London.

Tuesday July 19th
This was not the hottest day in the Wisconsin River Valley due in large part to clouds that stuck around from morning storms back near the Twin Cities and up across northern Minnesota.  However, just because there wasn't much sunshine doesn't mean atmospheric conditions weren't ripe for drenching and damaging storms.  The storms got going back in Price & Taylor Counties just before 6pm, increasing in coverage as they tracked toward Medford, Wausau, and Marshfield.  A severe storm exhibiting strong rotation, tracked across Taylor, northern Clark and into western Marathon County from 7-8pm.  Although there was no tornado, a least one funnel cloud was sighted near Vankeef, while damaging winds and torrential downpours of rain occurred.  Anywhere from 2-4" fell in this region by the time the wet weather finally concluded.  The thunderstorms continued to roll SE, and for a little while actually slowed down before picking up speed in forward progress around 9:30pm in Wood County.  This bow echo line of storms slammed east into Portage County at 10pm, leading to the widespread wind and flood damage in Junction City, Stevens Point and Plover.  Titan Radar showed as these storms were heading east, winds as high as 70 mph, which was later confirmed by the NWS Green Bay storm assessment.  Straight line winds took out numerous trees and power lines in Stevens Point, while many roads quickly flooded.  The western flank of the storms meanwhile shifted south through Juneau, Adams and Waushara Counties, but gradually loss their ferocity.

If you are keeping score at home, we have now had severe weather outbreaks in April, May, June and July.  Based on our track record, I wouldn't be surprised if more active weather manages to hit in August, but only time will tell if that ends up being the case.

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