MADISON (WKOW)--Stoughton Fire Chief Martin Lamers described the day of the 2005 tornado as, "...real muggy and warm; one of those real crummy days."
The weather quickly went from crummy to catastrophic in the early evening of Thursday, August 18, 2005. Conditions that day conspired to create the biggest one-day outbreak of tornadoes in Wisconsin history: 27. 16 of them were in southern Wisconsin. One of them came down on Joe Liggett's cul de sac just north of Stoughton.
"Every house on this street, except for that one, was completely rebuilt from the ground, up," Liggett told 27 News.
He and his family saw the storm coming from the west and went to the basement.
"The first thing I heard was some breaking glass; we thought it was just a picture falling off the wall. It was really deafening and my ears popped from the pressure. Bedrooms and stuff were completely leveled."
The F3 tornado with winds up to 200-miles an hour was on the ground for about ten miles, destroying 18 homes, hurting 21 people and killing one man, 54 year old Harold Orlofske of Pleasant Springs. Emergency crews got out quickly; some already on the road toward the tornado's path, knowing that's where they'd be needed first.
Stoughton fire chief Martin Lamers was the incident commander for the 2005 tornado.
"Initially it's a lot of chaos. There's a lot of confusion with all the destruction. You go to, Oh Man, you get one of those wow feelings that come over you. But, then you have to settle down and get to work and take charge," says Chief Lamers.
Lamers and his crews proceeded to make it through tree-blocked roads to the hardest hit areas, including Joe Liggett's formerly tree-lined street. It took almost a year for the Liggetts to clear the wreckage and rebuild their home.
"That's the thing you notice the most; the lack of all the trees and stuff. One thing people don't realize, is that trees and landscaping are not covered on insurance."
And if it happens to you:
"You gotta realize you're living minute by minute, then hour by hour, eventually day by day," advises Liggett.