SPC Stats

Path length: 16 miles

Width:  440 yards

Fatalities:  0

Injuries:  27

Rating:  F3

County:  Rusk

6 tornadoes were confirmed on September 2, 2002, all in the state of Wisconsin.  There were 2 F0s, 2 F1s, 1 F2 and 1 F3.  We take a look at that F3 in this summary.  The tornado struck around 420pm on Labor Day 2002 just to the west of downtown Ladysmith.  Per an article via the NWS Milwaukee, the tornado produced F0 damage at the beginning of the path then strengthened to F2 at the intersection of highways 8 and 27 on the west side of Ladysmith.  F3 damage was found just east of the railroad tracks near the Baptist church and through the downtown business area.  The tornado moved 16 miles at 30 mph.  Overall damage was estimated at $20 million. There were 27 injuries reported by Rusk County Emergency Management, most minor.  

Storm Data Entry

The first tornadic supercell to rake Wisconsin this day started just west of Ladysmith and tore through the downtown before moving into rural parts of eastern Rusk County.  Injury totals fluctuated at first, but Rusk County Emergency Management stated there were approximately 27 injuries, none more serious than a broken leg.  The NWS performed a damage survey the next day, and the most severe damage, rated F3, was in downtown Ladysmith.  In this area 4 blocks wide and 16 blocks long, 40 buildings were destroyed and 159 damaged.  One church was blown off its foundation, although during the damage survey, it was apparent that it had been barely attached to the foundation.  A pickup truck was also picked up and thrown into a tree.  Two old brick buildings collapsed.  As the tornado reached the east side of Ladysmith, it weakened to F2 status.  Once it left Ladysmith, the tornado continued on an eastward path, striking a number of rural farm houses and producing mostly F1 damage until it dissipated.  

Tornado Path

Click Map To Enlarge

SPC coordinates:  Start: 45.47 / -91.13   End:  45.47 / -90.82      

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Images via Wisconsin Emergency Management

Full collection found here:  

Newspaper Clippings


The Storm Prediction Center

NCDC Storm Events Database

September 2002 Storm Data Publication

Top Weather Events of the Decade via NWS Milwaukee

Wisconsin Emergency Management Images and Historic Materials


Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 991.

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