Caught in a tornado: Drivers in Boscobel drive through Grant County’s strongest storm in 36 years

Forecasters remind people why weather preparation is important, and how storm reports help document storm damage

BOSCOBEL, Wis. (WKBT) – Officials confirm Grant County’s largest tornado in more than 30 years on Saturday. National Weather Service leaders in La Crosse say reports from people on the ground help them assess the damage.

One video that could help forecasters shows a group of travelers getting too close for comfort. It’s why experts say weather awareness is always important.

Record-breaking weather paints the theme of the weekend. La Crosse saw its wettest day on record Saturday, and 70 miles south, Boscobel witnessed its largest (EF3) tornado since 1985.

tornado track in boscobel

Preliminary path of Saturday’s EF3 tornado outside Boscobel in Grant County Wisconsin. Courtesy: National Weather Service

“Kinda reinforces that idea that if a storm gets strong enough it can go up and down valleys and over hillsides,” said Todd Shea, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in La Crosse.

Tornados this large are rare for our region, but they can still happen. This is why forecasters say you need to pay attention when there are alert days. This tornado was 11 football fields in size. Alyssa DuCharme and her friends drove as close as it gets to a tornado producing winds up to 160 miles per hour.

“The sky was clear,” DuCharme said. “As soon as we got across the bridge, we looked over towards the Wauzeka area and the sky was pitch black.”

Shea said the Tornado wasn’t directly over them, but it was far too close.

“We couldn’t turn around because it was just as bad behind us,” DuCharme said.

DuCharme and her friends were driving to Madison and got caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.

“We stopped in a parking lot and we all just looked at each other, ‘What just happened? What did we just go through?” she said.

They drove through Grant County’s strongest storm in 36 years. Remarkably, the storm hurt no one.

“We’re quite lucky in some ways that there weren’t any injuries that we know of and no fatalities,” Shea said.

Boscobel tornado damage

Damage from an EF3 tornado in rural Boscobel Saturday.

People’s eyes and ears on the ground do help the experts assess the damage.

“Looking at the intensity, the track; some people can give us details on timing,” Shea said. “That can be used from, how do we do better warnings to how can build better structures.”

A video like DuCharme’s can help too, but meteorologists do not encourage getting this close. People who are traveling would have ways to get weather warnings and a place to go when forecasters issue warnings.

“Have a place that you could get to shelter really quickly in case it does strike pretty quickly,” Shea said.

Lucky for DuCharme, she’s here to tell a story she’ll remember for a long time, and there wasn’t even a scratch on their car.

“No, we got out and were looking around at it. I was like, I can not believe there is no damage to this car,” DuCharme said.

Shea says he hopes their warnings and weather alerts play a role in saving lives down the road. He also said it was amazing how long the tornado stayed on the ground. It lasted 20 minutes.