Monday, September 1, 2008

Cyclone of 1890

The weather has really been in the news lately. As this is being written, Hurricane Gustav is hitting Louisiana. While western Kentucky does not have to deal with hurricanes, they have had their share of tornadoes.

1890 was a bad year for tornadoes, or cyclones, as they were commonly called in Kentucky. The weather had been sultry on the 30th of March of 1890 and a storm was predicted, but no one had any idea how devastating that storm would be. Thunder began about 4 p.m. and soon dark clouds were visible in the southwest. About 6 p.m. a funnel cloud made its appearance. As the cyclone gained strength and rolled along, everything in its path was destroyed. Buildings were lifted, torn apart and their parts were scattered like childrens’ toys.

In the area between Thornburg and Clay, 17 deaths were reported and one woman and child were missing. After leaving that area, the storm struck the farm of Charles Parke and then hit the farm of Charley Owens. In that neighborhood Mr. Dick Williams’ house was blown down and he and one child and a Mrs. Shelton were killed and several others of the family were severely injured.

Webster County was not the only area hit by this monstrous storm. The little town of Grand Rivers, in Livingston County, Kentucky, was nearly blown away. A dozen houses were leveled. Mrs. Mattie Beck was hurled 200 yards and John Ethridge was hit by a falling tree. Both died of their injuries. The cyclone stuck the railroad bridge over the Cumberland River, a half a mile away, and took away a span. Telegraph wires were also destroyed.

There have been many fierce storms in western Kentucky, but among the worse were the tornadoes of 2005. The first one, in early November, hit Henderson and then passed over the Ohio River into southern Indiana, striking my town of Newburgh. More than 20 people died and I can attest to the devastation caused by this terrible storm. Mother Nature was not finished with this area yet, as just two weeks later, Hopkins County, Kentucky, about 40 minutes south of where the earlier tornado touched down, was hit with an F4 tornado, which did a tremendous amount of damage.

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