This area has had more than its share of significant weather events, the most notable being the various floods that have plagued the valley during the years. But there have been other types of weather events that have been memorable such as severe windstorms. A recent horrific storm was the “Tornado of 1985,” which claimed several lives in the Elimsport area, but there have been others as well. One of the most significant was the great windstorm called the “Great Cyclone of 1892.”
This severe windstorm took place on June 27, 1892 and tore a path of destruction from Jersey Shore to Williamsport to Eagles Mere, causing thousands of dollars worth of property damage. Fortunately no lives were lost.
The storm started just past 6 p.m. with the onset of ominous, boiling, black clouds descending on the area. The “Gazette and Bulletin” of June 28, 1892 described the onset of the storm this way, “The dark, ominous looking bank of black clouds that rose on the northwestern horizon brought with it one of the heaviest wind and rain storms that has visited this section in many years.”
Numerous trees were damaged or ripped from their roots, chimneys were blown down, roofs ripped off and various dwelling received lesser wind damage.
The “Gazette and Bulletin” wrote that, “ a bricklayer whose name could not be learned and who was working on the Heiser’s new house on Market Street, just below Sixth, was blown off the building and injured. His spine was hurt by the falling brick and a window frame striking him.”
The barn of John Ferguson near Jersey Shore was leveled, and Ferguson’s young boy was seriously injured. He was attempting to open the barn door for his father to shelter their horse and buggy when the barn collapsed on him. The boy remained unconscious for more than nine hours but eventually recovered.
On farms throughout the path of the storm crops were heavily damaged or wiped out by the storm.
In Williamsport, the storm leveled portions of the Mankey Decorative Works and destroyed every chimney from Center to Hepburn Street. The storm also knocked down the smokestack at the Coleman Planing Mill, near Railway Street. Windows on various houses and structures were blown out. The Williamsport Woolen Factory also was badly damaged. According to the “Gazette and Bulletin, the wind seemed to pick up the large smokestack and drop it in a heap in the wash room just east of the fire. A large shed in the rear of the factory was destroyed.
The building in Williamsport that suffered the greatest damage was the Williamsport Turn Verein Vorwarts Hall on Bennett Street. When the wind hit it the building virtually collapsed. Almost everything on the dance floor was smashed. Various items at the club where in a tumbled mess, including tables, chairs, benches, door and window frames.
The Williamsport Cemetery on Washington Boulevard was in the path of the storm and received extensive damage, as many tombstones were turned over by the force of the winds.
Heavy rains that accompanied the windstorm caused Grafius Run to rise to a raging torrent. It became bank full and many cellars were flooded.
Mother Nature from time to time reminds mere mortals who is really in charge and the “Great Cyclone of 1892” was one of the best examples of this.
By Lou Hunsinger Jr., Williamsport Sun-Gazette