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Local History- Weather - Stories

Weather Stories in the Sussex-Lisbon Area

Winter snowfall reaches 57 inches – more to come

The Sussex Wastewater Plant's weather station reported nearly 53 inches of snow during December and January.

The Sussex Wastewater Plant's weather station reported nearly 53 inches of snow during December and January.

December had 16 days totaling nearly 38 inches of snow, followed by 1.15 inches of rain Jan. 5-8 that dissolved most of the snow on the ground.

The snows returned Jan. 10, adding over 15 inches to the winter 2007-08 snowfall. Melting snows will help spring crops and summer harvests later this year.

February has had another 4 inches of snow, bringing the 2007-08 winter total to 57 inches so far, with more February and March snows still to come.

Temperature-wise, December 2007 had only two days with temperatures below zero, with minus-3 degrees recorded Dec. 6.

January also saw a significant thaw that included a 10-day period, Jan. 4-13, when the high temperature for each day was above freezing, including highs of 54 degrees Jan. 6 and a balmy 59 degrees the next day.

At the other end of the spectrum, nine of 13 days toward the end of the month had bone-chilling subzero temperatures. The coldest day this winter so far was Jan. 24, when the temperature nosedived to minus-11, followed by minus-9 the next day. January had 14 days in all with single-digit or below-zero lows.

Retrospect: 'Big wind' hits Sussex-Lisbon

At 10:24 p.m. Sunday, June 5, 1977, the million-dollar "big wind" hit Lisbon-Sussex. A million dollars doesn't sound like much today, but, 31 years ago, that was a big deal.

The tornado did most of its damage to parts of Lisbon that have since been annexed by Sussex.

The tornado was totally unexpected, and seemed to be two-headed. Damage was reported as far west as the two Marv Burg barns on Silver Spring Road in Lisbon just north of the Meissner farm.

The main damage corridor, however, ran south down Highway J (today Highway 164) from Howards Lane to Pewaukee Road.

Clocks stopped at 10:24 p.m. as electrical lines disappeared. Pewaukee's weather man, Bill Brown, saw the funnel cloud northeast of Pewaukee right about that time, even though it was a dark, dreary rainy night, with flashes of lightning and wind beginning to pick up.

The Sussex Fire Department, which covered the Town of Lisbon, too, back then, was the first responder, leaving the station at 10:30 p.m.

Hillside Road and Highway 74 (today Silver Spring Road west) was closed off to all but rescue and utility repair vehicles as far west as Lake Five Road as emergency teams removed downed trees and electrical lines the roadways.

The department stayed on duty until 1 a.m., retaining just a skeleton crew for the rest of the night. The other firefighters were told to get some rest and report back at 5 a.m. to start the real cleanup of the decapitated homes around today's Anchor Bank.

When 5 a.m. rolled around, they could see the extent of the damage. The Manke-McQuestion barn near today's Pick 'n Save was down. The Otto Paul Abel/Gordon Greenwaldt barn, where Color Ink is now, was a pile of debris.

The Greenwaldt-owned Greenwood Golf Driving Range next door was completely demolished, too, leaving a toilet stool standing on a slab of concrete and golf balls strewn over several thousand square feet.

On Howard Lane, two houses caught the brunt of the narrow attack: the Wilbert Oldenhalf and William Edler homes (the latter's hip roof completely blown off). The nearby Green Goddess greenhouse on Hillside Road was crushed and the roof of the E. Deede home at Good Hope and Highway 164 was stripped off.

A gas line to the roof of Joe Marchese's Danceland came off, and its air conditioner was destroyed. A new roof covering had to be installed, and the ceiling tile inside the ballroom had to be replaced.

The huge parking lot looked like it had gone through a war as the quirky tornado dumped house parts, branches and debris on it. A number of work crews cleaned it up over the following week and Marchese's Danceland was open for business the following weekend.

The whirl of chainsaws was heard that week on many of the roads the tornado had hit. Russ Pulvermacher and Ed Clemens had to clear a dozen century-old oak trees that had fallen. Clemens at least took away five years worth of firewood, but he also lost his attached stone garage to the big blow.

The tornado hop-scotched over to Duplainville Road and Highway 164, where it took down Big Buck Lumber and damaged Pipkorn and the adjacent Fredrickson Concrete.

It also sucked out the massive metal overhead garage door on Lisbon Town Hall's Public Works attachment (then at Good Hope and Hillside roads), impeding its staff's ability to get to some of its equipment until the door was removed.

The big wind did another million dollars in damage to Pewaukee and the Goerke's Corners area of the Town of Brookfield.

Some said at the time that it would take 25 years for the scars of that tornado to disappear, but it only took a few weeks, other than the missing trees and barns that were erased from the Lisbon landscape.

Severe storms submerge Sussex

A weekend of severe storms and heavy downpours forced people in Sussex and surrounding communities to duck and cover in basements with battery-powered radios.

A weekend of severe storms and heavy downpours forced people in Sussex and surrounding communities to duck and cover in basements with battery-powered radios, listening intently and waiting for the "all-clear" signal.

Now, in the wake of this storm-tossed weekend, they'll be shifting to cleanup.

Thunderstorms made their way into Waukesha County on Saturday, but the sight of rain was nothing new - it had rained for five of the six first days of June.

The severity of Saturday's storm brought more than just showers, however. Along with strong winds that reached close to 60 miles an hour, according to the National Weather Service, and booming thunder following bright yellow lightning, hail was also reported in some parts of Waukesha County, including Sussex.

Sunday's storms began about 10 a.m., leaving little time for the rain left in low-lying areas the previous day to soak into the ground.

A break late that afternoon brought out the sun - and a harsh light on the damage the weekend's storms had wrought.

PEDALING IN PUDDLES - A young boy attempts to ride his bike through Alice Jira's yard on Ridgewood Road in Sussex. The accumulated water from the weekend's storms flooded Jira's property as well as a path to one neighborhood playground.
Backyards, parking lots and construction sites retained rainwater that had nowhere else to flow. Small rivers popped up along roads, creating strong currents and rushing to the nearest drain or puddle. Large bodies of standing water on village streets and roadways made driving difficult.

"This is the most sizable rain event that we've seen in quite a while," said Sussex Assistant Village Administrator Jeremy Smith. "In my lifetime and career with the village, I've never seen a storm like this."

Much of Southeastern Wisconsin experienced overflowing lakes and rivers, prompting rushed efforts at water removal. Flooding and wind damage led Gov. Jim Doyle to declare a state of emergency in 29 counties, including Waukesha and Milwaukee counties.

"Fortunately for the Village of Sussex, we didn't have too bad of a problem with flooding," Smith said. "The biggest challenge for our crews was getting the storm sewer grates clean" because of all the grass clippings clogging the drains, "so it was difficult getting them all clean and ready for the water."

Most of the Sussex area experienced only minor storm problems, Smith said, but Alice Jira's home at N73 W24489 Ridgewood Road sustained significant flood damage to its front, side and back yards. Starting at the bottom of her driveway and extending across the dead-end street, the flood water filled a normally expansive green yard.

"Every time it rains, it floods," Jira said, "but this is bad."

Besides outside damage, the successive downpours also flooded her basement.

"The pump couldn't take all the water," she said. "It was kicking in every six seconds."

Though Jira is concerned about her own property, she also worries about neighborhood safety. On the other side of her lawn is a newly erected playground.

"It's bad because you've got that playground so close to the water," she noted. "Now you've got a safety hazard."

Just as she finished that sentence, a young boy tried to ride his bike through a new storm-created "pond." After a struggle with water that came up to his hips, he dismounted and walked his bike to the shore of Jira's street.

Dawn Hesselgrave of N71 W23381 Good Hope Road in Sussex faces a similar problem. Water flowed from the street and snaked its way around the side of her house into a newly formed lake in her backyard, marooning a white metal bench in the middle of the water.

"It happens every year, and this kind of damage won't be fixed easily," she said. "The (drainage system across the street) was supposed to help, but it doesn't. It just flows from there into our yard."

Smith said residents such as Jira and Hesselgrave will have to restore their water-filled lawns on their own.

"Typically, flooding is not something the village handles," he said. "If there is sewer damage, we handle that, but if it's a flooded lawn, the homeowners will have to take care of that themselves."

Storm damage was not confined to a single area of the village. It ripped large branches off trees on Town Line Road near the Lannon-Lisbon border and flooded the backyards of Rexam and Associated Bank on Main Street in Sussex.

The Highway 74 construction site near Landmark Credit Union also took on a lot of water. Dennis Shook, regional communications manager for the Southeastern Wisconsin Department of Transportation, said the storms shouldn't throw the construction team off schedule. Because the project's estimated November completion date already figures in weather delays.

Work crews "may be getting back out there by the middle of the week," he said.

By the end of the weekend, Smith and his village crew were able to assess the damage and pinpoint the problem areas, he said. The Waukesha Avenue project did not experience much damage, so Smith does not anticipate any delay in its schedule.

Other parts of Sussex might not see such a swift recovery, including Sussex Estates around Champeny Road, Smith said. Flooding there drains into Sussex Creek, which is higher than the road right now, but is already declining.

"We also have water in the Stonewood Estates park area," he said. "That's the low spot, so it just has to seep into the ground. We're probably going to try and do some other things to speed up nature."

Water-removal crews will have to act quickly: According to the National Weather Service's Web site (as of Monday), more thunderstorms might hit the Sussex area Thursday and Friday.

Fast facts

- Sussex has been drenched with 8.59 inches of rain since June 1.

- Saturday's rainfall reached 3.191 inches, Sunday's 3.28 inches.

- As of Monday, it had rained every day but one this month

Is 13.05 inches of rain a record?

Record-keepers in Milwaukee are saying that the June rainfall is already a record for any one month by the 15th. However, Sussex-Lisbon is not included in those records.

Record-keepers in Milwaukee are saying that the June rainfall is already a record for any one month by the 15th. However, Sussex-Lisbon is not included in those records.

Jim Thalke of the Sussex Wastewater Treatment Plant has been in charge of weather recording at the plant since 1980, and his memory says that June 2008 holds the all-time record for one month – and there could be more, with just under two weeks still remaining.

According to Thalke’s records, as of Monday, June 16, 13.05 inches of rain has fallen in Sussex-Lisbon this month alone. He said he expects over 30 inches of precipitation each year, and last year had over 42 inches.

Thalke said the wastewater treatment plant handled record amounts of inflow during the first two weeks of June, as there were four days with big rains: June 4 with 1.03 inches, June 7 with 3.191 inches, June 8 with 3.28 inches and June 12 with 3.49 inches. Ten of the first 16 days in June had rain.

In the early part of the month, the Sussex dam site on Old Mill Lane was full of backed-up water, and it remained full this Monday as the Sussex Creek cannot carry it away fast enough to the Fox River.

“This sustained rain during the first two weeks of June could well be the wettest in the quarter century I have been here, and June is only half over,” Thalke said. “What will we get the rest of the month?” Then, whimsically, he predicted, “It won’t rain at all this year in August.”

The first 16 days of June had nine days with temperatures in the 50s; June 1 was the coldest at 50 degrees and June 2 had the high of 91 degrees.

There has been flooding for Sussex-Lisbon residences as evidenced by the soiled rec room rugs that were out at curb’s edge on garbage day. Notably, many burned-out sump pumps were also in evidence, as well as dehumidifiers.

Lisbon flood victims might get federal help; More than 30 basements flooded

Some town residents whose basements were flooded during a series of severe thunderstorms earlier this month might be eligible for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Some town residents whose basements were flooded during a series of severe thunderstorms earlier this month might be eligible for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

People who suffered significant damage or financial loss as a result of flooding should contact Town Hall for information, said Town Administrator Jeff Musche.

Musche told the Town Board on Monday that FEMA might reimburse eligible homeowners for damage to household mechanical equipment, such as water heaters and electrical boxes, but will not cover losses of personal items such as clothing and furniture.

The money might be available because Waukesha County has been declared a disaster area.

“We’ve been collecting the names and contact information from people who’ve called with basement flooding and will provide them with contact information for FEMA,” Musche said. “We also have FEMA publications available for residents regarding the application process for grants. Copies are available at the Town Hall or by e-mail upon request.”

The town has spent about $17,000 responding to emergencies caused by the rainstorms June 7-12, Musche said, but the costs could run higher when culverts in the town are inspected and replaced.

The rain damaged many culverts, washed out some road shoulders and flooded several roads, he said.

Homeowners also reported 34 flooded basements. Nine of them needed a large pump provided by the Fire Department to remove water from their basements.

Fire Chief Doug Brahm told town supervisors that it was the department’s policy to help homeowners remove water from basements when the flooding created a safety hazard or potential for large property losses.

He said the Fire Department sometimes was “the only alternative” for senior citizens living alone or for properties flooded late at night or early in the morning when no other pumps were available.

He said the town spent about $3,600 using fire equipment to assist flood victims.

Flooding incidents were scattered throughout the town, but much of the damage was focused on neighborhoods near Maple Avenue and Highway K and near Good Hope and Hillside roads.

Judy Duquaine of Maple Avenue told the board that in 1997 she had nearly 3 feet of water in her basement and her home was an island surrounded by floodwater.

She claimed that town officials back then said they would help her, but did nothing. She said this month she has had nearly a foot of water in her basement and pleaded with town officials for help in preventing future flooding.

She claimed that the flooding was the result of the construction of a commercial center at Highways K and 164 in 1994. She said stormwater runoff from the commercial center flooded a river near her, and the river then flooded her basement and yard.

“There are bluegills and minnows in my yard. They did not fall out of the sky. The only place they could have come from was the … river and the corporate center,” she said.

Musche later identified the “river” as a small creek near Duquaine’s home. He also pointed out that Duquaine’s backyard is in a floodplain.

Town Engineer John Stigler of Jahnke and Jahnke said one of the reasons for the flooding near Maple Avenue and Highway K is that the shallow water table is on top of the stone layer beneath the ground in the region.

Sussex, Lisbon dry up in August

The Sussex Wastewater Treatment Plant recorded a record 108 inches of snow in Sussex-Lisbon last winter. Then June saw a record 13.3 inches of rain, causing flooding in the two communities.


Sussex Sun, Posted: Sept. 10, 2008

The Sussex Wastewater Treatment Plant recorded a record 108 inches of snow in Sussex-Lisbon last winter. Then June saw a record 13.3 inches of rain, causing flooding in the two communities.

Farmers were especially hard hit as May fields still soaked from snow runoff were deluged in June, forcing late plantings or drowning already planted seeds.

July also got off to a wet start with 2.15 inches on the seventh, but the next 58 days to Sept. 3 saw only sporadic rains, amounting to only 2.11 inches. August was especially dry, with only 0.9 inches, and the first three days of September mad it 46 days with less than an inch of rain.

Farmer Charlie Goetz on Lisbon Road complained that the soy bean fields looked great as they recovered from the June floods, but the dry spell that followed at critical times in July and August has decimated the estimated yield, according to his surveys of his own fields and reports he has gleaned from other farmers.

He usually harvests 40 bushels per acre a year, and 44 bushels in a good year, but this year, “The fields look good, but there are just no beans in the pods. I am expecting only 20 bushes per acre – a really bad year.”

This summer has not been a real scorcher, never reaching 100 degrees. July recorded 16 days of 90 or higher, with July 9 the hottest at 97. August had eight 90-plus days, with Aug. 1 the hottest at 96.

July dipped down to 50 for its coolest day July 4. August hit a low of 51 on Aug 26, but alos had two days at 52, Aug. 10 and 30.

The 13.3 inches of rain in June plus the 2.54 inches in the first week of July totaled almost 16 inches for a 38 day period.

The dry spell that followed has stunted lawn growth, eliminating most of the season’s mowing. Last year Ted Mottl of Sussex cut his lawn 26 times for the season, but this year just 12 times so far. He expects the total to be less then 20 by the time he puts away his mower for good some time in October.

Trees are also showing stress from the two-month drought and cornfields have yielded only short stubby cobs. Corn and soy fields are browning over before they finish their maturing cycles.

First big storm hit early

Most morning commuters who took their time and drove cautiously managed to survive without incident an earlier-than-usual first major winter storm that produced about 8 inches of snow in Lake Country, while some of those who drove a bit too aggressively found themselves in the ditch or trading pa

Most morning commuters who took their time and drove cautiously managed to survive without incident an earlier-than-usual first major winter storm that produced about 8 inches of snow in Lake Country, while some of those who drove a bit too aggressively found themselves in the ditch or trading paint with other motorists.

The Sun’s own Fred Keller took a yardstick and measured the snow in his near-downtown frontyard and came up with a 7½-inch measurement Monday.

“That’s as accurate a measurement as you’re going to get,” said Sussex Wastewater Management Superintendent Jim Thalke. The facility includes a weather station, but it only measures rainfall, he said, not snow.

Keller also reported that the snowplows were out early Monday morning and traffic flowed smoothly through the village all day.

Waukesha County Sheriff’s Deputy James Gumm, Sussex’s public safety director, credited the village’s Public Works Department for keeping the streets clear of snow, keeping down the number of accidents, all minor, during the snowstorm.

The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department reported fender-benders too numerous to count but no apparent serious injuries in the rash of accidents caused by the snow-covered and icy road surfaces that existed despite the efforts of state, municipal and county highway crews.

“I was on Interstate 94 at 6 a.m. (Monday morning). Some of it was snow covered, but there were a lot of places in the more-protected areas where it was just wet,” said Peter Chladil, Waukesha County Public Works Department operations manager.

Most county road crews worked until late Sunday evening and then returned at 3 a.m. Monday, he said, and the east-west county roads were still snow covered and slippery late Monday morning because strong winds were causing drifting snow.

“It wasn’t bad. The roads were snow covered and slippery, but it was not nearly as bad as some other storms where the roads were covered with drifts,” said Lisbon Deputy Town Clerk Sandi Gettelman, who drove from her home in Dodge County to Lisbon Town Hall.

Delafield Town Clerk Mary Elsner said she was able to drive across about half of Lake Country – from her home in Sussex to work at Town Hall – on roads that “weren’t too bad.”

She said town road crews worked Sunday morning and afternoon and were back on the job at 3 a.m. Monday, putting the roads in “good shape” by midmorning.

“We had a car in the ditch near at Highway 83 near Naga-Waukee County Park. Otherwise, things have been pretty quiet in the City of Delafield,” said Officer Dan Bloedow.

Town of Summit officials also said their road crews began early Monday morning, and roads were snow covered by midmorning because of stiff winds.

The City of Oconomowoc reported about 4 inches of snow. Officials said they began salting streets late Sunday afternoon in anticipation of the storm, which reached full strength overnight.

The highway crews returned to the streets at about 1 a.m. Monday, city officials said.

Staff writer Erin Lamb contributed to this report.


Soo Line train going thru Sussex, Jan 1947, after great 24inch snow storm., with Retrospect article about storm.

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