The Super Tornado

rochesterSnippets 131.  On 21st August 1883, exactly 134 years ago today, an F5 tornado hit Rochester, Minnesota. F5 is the most severe level of the Fujita scale, described as causing “incredible damage”. Although this is an estimate, as weather observation techniques were not as sophisticated as today, it is pretty clear from news reports that this was a weather event of unusual magnitude. The following quote is from the Winona Daily Republican:

A cyclone struck here about 7pm. The depot is unroofed and badly wrecked. The engine house is a total wreck. The covered bridge, near the city, is all gone. About six or eight cars in the yard are all smashed up… The streets are full of trees and parts of buildings…

The north part of the city is almost a total wreck. It is a bad looking sight.

There are five cars and an engine ditched at Zumbrota junction. Fireman of train No. 12, Wm. Higgins, jumped from the engine and cannot be found.

A building standing about ten rods from the track was blown on to it and ditched the train…

The whole town north of the depot is a total wreck – houses blown entirely down, including the Methodist church, also a new brick building right across the way at Broadway…

The railroad bridge is blown down at Rochester, not a piece left on the abutments.

The following dispatch was sent by Mayor Whitten:

“Rochester is in ruins; twenty-four people are killed, and over forty are severely injured. One third of the city is laid waste. We need immediate help.”

… More than two hundred dwellings are utterly destroyed… The citizens have organized relief committess. They need help. Money must be had.


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