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Stoughton Tornado - Media Coverage

(Remember, click on the thumbnails to see larger pictures!)

The night after the storm, it seemed as if no one had a complete idea of how much damage had been caused. The National Weather Service didn't even have a complete count of the number of tornados. This screenshot from a Chicago news web site nicely sums up the confusion.

Occasionally caption writers get a chance at some dry humor. Here, a house has clearly gone missing, a large tornado was clearly seen in the area by hundreds of witnesses and the National Weather Service has yet to "confirm" the event.
Credit: NBC5 in Chicago, IL (August 19, 2005)

Overnight, however, local Milwaukee news departments realized what had happened and sent their news choppers. In the morning we woke up to sounds of helicopters buzzing our town and horrible images of destruction on the ground.

At the time, it was known that one person had died. However, looking at the piles of rubble from the ground and the missing houses, no, missing neighborhoods from the sky you just know what everyone was thinking: there must a dozen bodies out there somewhere. At some point in the morning a national news director got the same feeling and went national with the Stoughton Tornado story.

Again, from Chicago, this kind of over-the-top coverage got my Illinois relatives calling early and often.

"Tornado Kills One, Destroys Wisconsin Community"
Credit: CBS2 in Chicago, IL (August 19, 2005)

If the story in this shot looks familiar, it's because it is the Wisconsin State Journal front page article that was carried over the AP wires and printed in newspapers and web pages around the world. (Note that the injury and damage totals are severely understated - think about that the next time you read the next disaster story.) Here are some more examples.

The tornado was briefly one of Yahoo.com's top 6 news items. Unfortunately, the attached "forum" was filled with knuckle-draggers such as this and this. (Not for the easily offended!)
Credit: Yahoo.com (August 19, 2005)
CNN ran the stock "sky just exploded" story.
Credit: CNN.com (August 19, 2005)
Some United Kingdom media ran the story too. (There is, after all, a town called Stoughton in England!)
Credit: guardian.co.uk (August 19, 2005)

Locally, the folks at madison.com (online home of the Wisconsin State Journal and the Capital Times) were facing some interesting technical problems the morning after the storm. While both of Madison's papers put the Stoughton tornadoes on page one under massive headlines (and the rest of the country's media was putting Stoughton's tornado story on their home pages) , madison.com kept bumping tornado news with middling stories about the local semi-pro baseball team and the local university's football team. For example, here are the top stories on madison.com on the day after the tornado...


"www.StoughtonTornado.org" is owned by Jonathan G. Lampe This not-for-profit web site hosts a scrapbook covering the August 18, 2005 Stoughton area tornado. The photo of the tornado in the header was taken by Jerry Currie and is used with his permission. Copyright is claimed only to protect my right to publish my own (rather sparse) original content; you are free to make copies of my original content. Archived and attributed content (e.g., images and articles) may be subject to individual copyrights. Sources, attribution and original publisher are listed to the best of my ability. This site is not an official publication nor am I officially connected to the Stoughton Area Tornado Relief Fund or the Long Term Recovery Board , although I consider myself a "booster".