Miniature Cyclone Strikes South Washington

Title

Miniature Cyclone Strikes South Washington

Description

In September 1888 a tornado, called a cyclone by the press, touched down on Maryland Avenue SW. It damaged the roofs of the National Museum and the Fish Commission buildings. Just north of the Fish Commission buildings, a group of houses and businesses were damaged. The Botanic Garden, then located in line with the Capitol, also sustained damage to its greenhouses and some of the plants. A group of sea turtles at the Fish Commission attempted to escape onto the Mall when their gate broke down, but the watchman in charge managed to return them to their pen.

Source

The Washington Post.

Date

09/17/1888

Coverage

Text

A cyclone visited Washington yesterday afternoon, unroofing houses in its fury, tearing up trees, smashing windows, and strewing its path with ruin more extensive than any windstorm that has occurred here in years. The storm was in many respects the most remarkable that was ever experienced here. It was confined to South Washington exclusively, and there it swept along a narrow path hardly 200 feet in width. It burst with its full fury, first along C street between Ninth and Tenth south-west, unroofing the houses there; then swept along B street, damaging the National Museum building, and unroofing the greater portion of the Fish Commission Building. From there it passed to the square between Four-and-a-half and Sixth streets and Maine and Maryland avenues, where it nearly demolished the foundry of George White and wrecked the mill of William P. Woods, besides unroofing a number of houses. In the Botanical Garden it leveled the shrubbery and almost demolished the large green houses, shattering the glass and overturning flowers into one indiscriminate mass of earth, flower pots and vegetation. The storm seemed to rise and fall as it passed. At one moment it would pass harmlessly over the roofs of houses and the next instant it would swoop down upon those adjoining, tearing them to pieces and sending timbers and other material flying in every direction.

The storm occurred about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when the rain that deluged the city was falling heaviest…. It swept up Maryland avenue from the river to Tenth street, where it began its work of devastation….

When the storm struck the Fish Commission building, on the corner of Sixth and B streets, it tore the slates from the roof and whirled them about in the air as if they had been so many leaves. But the damage was greatest in the square between Four-and-a-half and Sixth streets and Maine and Missouri avenues. The houses on the corner escaped uninjured, but a stable belonging to a man named Thompson was leveled to the ground. The next building to go was White's foundry. The front doors were blown in, the roof was torn from its fastenings, and the rear wall went down with a crash. Wm. P. Wood's mill, just behind White's foundry, and fronting on Maryland avenue, followed. A portion of its roof was lifted off and hurled clear over the roofs of the houses in Armory street, which were also lifted, and together they fell in the street, forming a complete barricade, blocking up the thoroughfare and the doorways of the unroofed houses.

Then on sped the tempest, unroofing two residences on Maryland avenue, until it reached the Botanical Gardens. The magnificent row of poplins that stand on either side of the main walk were leveled in an instant. The limbs were twisted from the trees, while the ruin in the green house is almost irreparable. The wind blew from every direction at once, and while it sent one roof flying in a northerly direction, the next was carried in an opposite way.

It was not of long duration. It passed almost instantly, and in several instances the affrighted people scarcely realized what had occurred until they saw the wreck and ruin about them and witnessed the passage of the storm in the distance….

The only damage done to the National Museum building was to the roof, and how extensive this is will have to be determined to0day. The roof of the north hall was perforated in several places and there are numerous and extensive cracks in it. The damage to the Fish Commission building was far more serious. The whole of the roof is damaged and part of it was taken away completely, while the windows on the north front were blown in….

When the storm first broke it blew out the gates of the yard at the Fish Commission Building, and a number of sea turtles that had been placed there for safe keeping, seeing the way clear and recognizing the storm as belonging to their native elements, made a break for liberty. They were slowly making their way over the railroad tracks when they were discovered by the watchman. Then ensued a chase between the guardian and the turtles. At first the watchman attempted to herd them as he would cattle, but that was a failure. Finally, after much perspiration-inducing work, he succeeded, by dragging some and driving others, in getting them safely corralled again.

Description

In September 1888 a tornado, called a cyclone by the press, touched down on Maryland Avenue SW. It damaged the roofs of the National Museum and the Fish Commission buildings. Just north of the Fish Commission buildings, a group of houses and businesses were damaged. The Botanic Garden, then located in line with the Capitol, also sustained damage to its greenhouses and some of the plants. A group of sea turtles at the Fish Commission attempted to escape onto the Mall when their gate broke down, but the watchman in charge managed to return them to their pen.

Date

09/17/1888

Coverage

1860-1889

Source

The Washington Post.