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Oakfield tornado struck 17 years ago Thursday night

OAKFIELD, WI (WTAQ) - It was 17 years ago tonight when a tornado almost destroyed the small community of Oakfield in Fond du Lac County.

The twister arrived from the northwest around 7:15 p.m., and it took aim at the village of just over 1,000 residents.

Nobody was killed, and 19 people were hurt – most while they were cleaning up the wreckage. 47 homes were destroyed, and another 56 had major damage – along with a number of churches and businesses.

The Friday Canning Company in Oakfield was leveled, and empty cans landed up to 50 miles away.

The fire chief at the time, Gary Collien, is now Oakfield’s village president. He cited a number of reasons that nobody was killed.

One was that the twister did not happen overnight when most people would have been sleeping. Many were down the road in Fond du Lac at the time, attending the county fair.

Collien said there was talk during the day about the chance of severe weather, and the community got up to 7 minutes of advance warning before it arrived.

Only two twisters in the last 29 years caused over $40 million in damage in Wisconsin – the 1996 Oakfield storm, and the one that leveled Barneveld in 1984.