Whether or not you see it, you see what it does

And now, a moment from my career.

Two weeks ago, my Friday the 13th began with finding out that a murder had been committed. Three days later, I interviewed the victim’s family, and I left thinking I had a great story. (Because that’s how journalists think, but you knew that.)

About 12 hours later, my plans for that week’s front page changed dramatically, when I got to cover something I’ve written a lot about, but have never actually seen (and I still haven’t) or had go over me — not one, but two tornadoes.

As you can read here, since I was sitting in the dark, with no power in town, I decided to go out and see what was going on. I didn’t have an inkling that two tornadoes had hit — one one-half mile to the south, the other less than two miles to the north — until I spoke to employees at a restaurant who headed into its basement about 10 seconds before the tornado arrived. Their description — high wind, then no wind, then an air pressure change — made me conclude that the restaurant wasn’t hit merely by straight-line winds.

The amazing thing to me remains the capricious nature of tornado damage. Two houses away from a destroyed house, another house had minor damage. One business was destroyed, and others had extensive damage, but others didn’t have any damage at all, including a restaurant that appeared to have missed the tornado to the north and east by a couple hundred feet if that.

The damage included UW–Platteville’s football stadium, which makes those of us who announce and cover games there wonder where we’re going to be announcing and covering this August’s and September’s home games.

The most controversial thing about the tornadoes — reportedly the first to hit here in 44 years — is that there was no tornado warning by the National Weather Service, and the sirens did not sound, before or after the tornadoes made their appearance. The NWS page on the tornadoes includes its La Crosse radar …

… with nothing really visible at 10:49 p.m. unless apparently you look really close:

Of course, this isn’t a story that goes away after one week.

And if the NWS Storm Prediction Center is correct, there might be a different severe weather story next week:


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