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Tornado
of
1899


Lincoln Beacon, June 8, 1899

"The Tornado!"

Tuesday last was a blustery, windy day, the wind quartering up against the prevailing wind from different directions all day with frequent showers from all sorts of directions. It had many of the symptoms of cyclone weather, though the absence of the gusts of hot wind from different directions alternating with the usual cool breezes of a showery day misled the students of "cyclone weather." At 2 p.m. a heavy rain with a threatening façade drifted up from the southwest, but west and southeast there was no appearance of anything worse than straight wind.

South and southeast, however, the winds were conflicting and contrary. A single puff of hot wind in town was enough to put everybody on the watch, but the black, drifting storm from the southwest absorbed nearly everybody’s attention. Only a few people, relatively speaking, had their attention drawn south and southeast.

At 2:30 C.B. Daughters saw from the south porch of his home on north Second street (the highest point in town) a sudden declension of a small mass of clouds to the ground, at a point about 10 miles almost due south of town. Floating fragments of clouds were drawn toward this point from east and west, and almost immediately the mass started toward the north, traveling quite rapidly. Others may have seen this inception of the tornado besides Mr. Daughters. No well defined funnel could be seen, but doubtless there was one, but obscured by the clouds, which trailed very low, and by frequent showers which intercepted the view.

As this central or focal mass of cloud traveled north and came nearer some of its details could be made out. The frontage seemed to be a mass of falling water continually re-enforced by condensation which seemed to be going on in the upper part of the disturbance. What resembled waves of water swept downward and were discharged upon the ground. This simile of "wave" is hardly correct to describe a downward movement but is the completest comparison that can be made.

So far as observers in town are concerned the tornado (easily identified by this time) might have been upon the ground the entire distance from its original formation until it reached the river, but such was not the case. As a matter of fact the circular movement was all expended high in the air until the river was reached at a point a mile south and half a mile east of town, on W.S. Rees’s place. The fact that the whirl had reached the ground could only be told then by the results, not from appearance, on account of the masses of low hanging clouds and drifting rains.

The tornado struck the ground at W.S. Rees’s river ford, a mile and a half by the road, southeast of Lincoln. It came down like a hawk in a barnyard, tearing limbs from trees and breaking other trees off, for a distance of probably 50 yards. It then bounced exactly like a balloon after striking the earth. This "bounce" is a queer phenomenon attending all the smaller and some of the larger tornadoes.

It cleared Rees’s wheat field and came down squarely on his barn, granary, sheds and machinery a third of a mile to the northeast of the ford. It lingered perhaps a full minute and in that time did damage that a thousand dollars cash could hardly replace. The granary, a large structure embracing a buddy shed, implements shed and tool house, was completely torn to pieces. The only part that remains intact was a bin which was anchored down by 500 bushels of wheat. This was unroofed of course. There was two 50 barrel tanks fed by a windmill down the slope a hundred feet. One was broken completely to pieces. The other was uninjured, not even upset, and a stirring plow was lifted into it by the wind, perhaps to hold it down. The barn was wrecked, the frame portion disappearing and the stone part being unroofed and badly wrecked. The wheel of the windmill was taken off, the buggy wrecked, and all the farm machinery badly mashed – except the plow which was put down in the tank.

The dwelling, about a hundred feet down the slope to the east, sustained perhaps a hundred dollars damage – not more. A piece of roof and the south porch being cut off and carried away. Only the very edge of the tornado struck it.

In the tool house (under the same roof as the granary) stood a heavy workbench littered up with all the usual odds and ends, among which was a half-filled gallon can of mixed paint and oil, uncovered. The granary disappeared, torn in pieces; not a piece of the workbench has been found that can be identified. After the storm the paint can sat upon the ground 30 feet away, only right side up and not a drop of oil or paint had been spilled.

Mr. Rees carried tornado insurance on everything he had above ground.

Elrod’s pasture, directly north of Rees, was littered all over with debris from Rees’ place. Scores of broken boards had been driven into the ground at every angle. Two boards entirely disconnected and belonging to different structures, were driven into the ground in [an] "X’ shape, touching each other.

The tornado cut across the corner of Elrod’s pasture toward the northeast and struck the section line road three-quarters of a mile south of the Lincoln cemetery. It followed the road a quarter of a mile along J.S. Beck’s hedge fence. The hedge, which is high and rank, was found filed with debris after the storm. It crossed the railroad where the road crosses it about 200 feet from the northwest corner of the Beck place. Here it broke off a hedge-tree six inches in diameter, which was really the only damage done the hedge. At the crossing the cattle guards on the east side of the road way were twisted in opposite directions but not torn off, but the post of the sign-board a rod away was broken off close to the ground.

Jos. Smith, driving C.B. Jones’s team, was caught going north along the narrow road between the high hedge and the pasture fence, by the tornado which came across the pasture from the southwest. The team was too scared to budget when the whirl drew near, seeing which Smith threw himself upon the ground, but held to the lines. The whirl struck the road a few rods ahead of him carrying with it a tremendous mass of broken boards and other rubbish. No injury was done to the team or to Smith except that both were badly scared.

The tornado lifted at "the Beck corner" and did not come down for just a mile, when it struck about a hundred yards east of the section line. It came down on an unoccupied, one-story dwelling 18x20 feet, belonging to Chas. Davis, who lives in Iowa. This building was smashed to pieces and scattered over the fields to the north, in Beaver township. ---- Schmidt’s dwelling, sheds, barns, etc., a hundred feet to the northwest, in Beaver township, were untouched except that a large patch of shingles was peeled off the dwelling roof.

The tornado kept on up Little Yauger bottom, but three-quarters of a mile directly north of Schmidt’s ran into a point of high ground upon which stood August Lundstrum’s dwelling, barn, sheds, etc. The barn was a total wreck. As much of it as was not left lying in a shapeless, broken mass, was scattered in small pieces for half a mile to the north. Mr. Lundstrum’s machinery and wagon were badly broken to pieces. His house, a well-built one-story structure, was out of the direct line of the whirl, but it was shoved bodily about 15 feet to the east and north, and badly wrecked. A hole "as large as a tea-kettle" was knocked through the roof in one place, but nothing was left in the loft to indicate what did it. The cellar had at least a ton and a half of rock tumbled into it from the foundation wall and the upper part of the wall. Had the family gone into the cellar, as Mr. Lundstrum shouted to them to do, most of them must surely have been more or less severely injured by falling rock. The family (wife and five children) would have gone to the cellar had they had time before the tornado struck and the house began to go.

Mr. Lundstrum was outdoors when he first saw the tornado, a quarter of a mile away, coming very fast and roaring loudly. He shouted to his wife to take the children into the cellar, and then rain into the barn to turn the horses out. The horses had just run out, but before he could get out himself everything went to pieces. He was left standing in a space that a fat man could hardly turn around in, with the wreck of the barn around him. He was absolutely unhurt by the one chance in a thousand. Had he taken one step forward from where he stood when the crash came he would have been killed beyond question.

A clump of cottonwood and box-elder trees stood near the house. Two trees a foot in diameter were broken off, another was as completely stripped of leaves, limbs and twigs as a flag-pole. The rest of the trees were almost uninjured.

The damage on this property with aggregate six hundred dollars.

Mr. Lundstrum is a renter and the losses do not fall on him. The damage to his machinery, stock and household effects will aggregate a hundred dollars.

At L.P. Heady’s house, two hundred yards northeast, a small shed was blown down and no other damage done.

R.L. Parker’s windmill, half a mile north of Lundstrum’s, was blown down and his stock-shed wrecked.

At S.T. Weaver’s place half a mile north of Parker’s the windmill was blown down and the barn and stocksheds wrecked, involving a loss of at least six hundred dollars, but insured. The property belongs to E.A. McFarland. The machinery and other personal effects destroyed were not insured.

The Weaver place was the last place struck. The tornado either exhausted itself there or went up and expended the remainder of its force in the air.

The dwellers along Little Yauger say that the approaching storm appeared to be a wall of water. The roar was terrific, and its speed must have been not less than 30 miles an hour. A rear view of the receding tornado showed a turning mass of whirling water, dirt and debris.

The really most remarkable freak of this storm was that in a distance of four miles it struck but two dwellings, and only one of them squarely.


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