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VIDEO | Remembering the West Bend tornado from April 4, 1981

April 2, 2023 – West Bend, WI – Tuesday, April 4 will be 42 years since a tornado struck West Bend. It happened in the middle of the night on April 4, 1981. Members of the West Bend Fire Department remember the call.

“It was a long night… a very long night.”

“The train had just gone through, and I thought… the trains coming through again,” said Mike Tennies.  “The fire department did a great job along with the police department.”

Click HERE for a series of photos following the tornado April 4, 1981

“I was at home and thought it was just a fire call and I didn’t know what we had until I got to the station and then it was all hands-on deck,” said James Hodge.  “A lot of the equipment had flat tires. We were up there changing tires on equipment. It was a long cold night.”


Click HERE to see the report from the American Meteorological Society.

Janet Meisenheimer was a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in West Bend in 1981 when the tornado hit the north side of the community.

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“The code was Dr. Blue or Dr. White and that meant to be prepared for bad storms in the area,” she said. “A little bit after midnight there was a baby delivered … but on the outside the storm was hitting badly.”

Staff at St. Joe’s Hospital made plans to evacuate and “we lined up all the cribs of the babies just in case we had to go to a lower floor.”

Janet Meisenheimer also remembered how vital the nuns were to the hospital. They lived on site in a small dormitory, and they always were on call. Meisenheimer remembered Sr. Loretta and how critical she was when it came to delivering babies.

Click HERE for a photo gallery from Badger Firefighters Association.


  1. I was in this tornado. I lived in Greentree rd near the tech school. My dad was the first one to the hospital with my 5 month old baby brother. The baby’s room was completely gone!! He was found by my dad on the sidewalk in front of the house. When he got to the hospital, the sirens hadn’t even gone off yet. When he told the ED what happened they just looked at him. THEN the sirens went off. Our two neighbors next door died. I was trapped in my room for a bit where the walls and ceiling collapsed on top of me. I remember being helped out of my room, carried to the basement, all of my family except my mom being taken to safety. But I injured my back and couldn’t be moved. I remember after all that time THEN the sirens went off! I have so many clear memories of that night.

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