On June 8, 1984, at 12:50 a.m., a devastating tornado struck the small village of Barneveld, Wisconsin. Although a tornado watch was in effect, no warning was issued since the tornado originated near the town. The town, which had approximately 580 residents, was literally flattened by winds in excess of 200 miles an hour. Casualties made up about 11% of the population: 9 lives were lost and 57 persons were treated for injuries. The storm destroyed 120 homes, 11 businesses, the village elementary school, 5 churches, and all the municipal buildings, including a new fire station and the equipment in it. The village was left without electricity, telephone service, or water. Damage was estimated at over $20 million.
The local power company was in radio contact with the sheriff’s office within 5 minutes and was moving trucks into the area within 40 minutes, encountering such hazardous conditions as exposed fuel oil and LP tanks. The telephone company set up an emergency bank of phones. Both companies needed several days to complete repairs. A command post was established to coordinate emergency operations. Local officials immediately began to clear debris from the stricken area. Police, fire, and emergency medical personnel concentrated their efforts on search and rescue operations for those who were trapped in collapsed structures. The village was evacuated to another town where congregate care was set up by the Red Cross, which also assisted in preliminary damage assessment.
The town received State assistance immediately. The State patrol directed traffic and assisted in securing portions of the affected area, and the National Guard assisted in security and law enforcement, as well as emergency operations. The Department of Natural Resources assisted in security, traffic control, and recovery operations. The State Department of Health and Social Services supported the county social service offices, which were...