05 December 2007

A Mighty Wind (watch out chickens)

Have you been enjoying the windy weather? It seems that Hillsborough has a long history of windstorms - some quite severe, even freakish in nature. Today I offer up two stories of strange wind.

New York Times headline, 20 May 1936

In July of 1915, a deadly storm that had wreaked havoc across the Midwest made its way through Somerset and Hunterdon counties. One of the worst-hit towns was East Millstone, just across the river from Hillsborough. The cyclone-like storm tore the roof off the Pennsylvania Railroad roundhouse and snapped the trunks of 75 trees. A piece of the galvanized roof of the Harmer Rubber Reclaiming Company was ripped off and spun through the air 700 feet before coming to rest in the backyard of a neighboring home.

8 July 1915, Home News

The town was in chaos for the few minutes that the storm lasted. Abraham Nevius reported that his chicken house had been lifted whole into the air - only the floor remaining firmly attached to the foundation - with chickens clinging desperately to the interior, while some fell out of the bottomless building. The chicken house was carried on the wind across two fields before finally crashing and smashing to pieces.

9 July 1915, Courier News

In ten minutes it was all over, with farmers and townsfolk pumping out their cellars, and wondering how they would recover all of the seriously damaged crops.

20 May 1936 Home News

Twenty-one years later the folks - and chickens - on the other side of the river, in Hillsborough, got their freak storm. Alfred Huff, whose farm was on Blackwell's Mills Road described what happened after his cousin, Reynold Olsen, shouted out a warning to run:

"All of a sudden I heard a whistling and a rumbling. I saw a funnel-shaped cloud coming from the southeast. The next thing I knew, the combination tool-shed and chicken coop was sucked off the ground. It must have gone up about forty or fifty feet. It was carried about forty feet from where it had stood and then dropped and scattered all over the place.
"Eight fruit trees were pulled up and some of the siding and shingles torn off the barn. The whole thing happened in less time than it takes to tell it. Then it was calm. It was kind of creepy, it was so still."
Huff also reported that his son, Thurston, was lifted up in the air while riding his bicycle and ended up, unscathed, in a ditch at the side of the road.

19 May 1936 Courier News

Peter Clerico's farm was also struck by the storm. Once again, chickens got the worst of it, with the twister tossing the chicken house several hundred feet. Oddly, these two farms appeared to be the only ones affected - other farmers in the area had no idea any kind of a storm had passed through!

1 comment:

  1. I Have

    An amateur weather station and live on the east side of the Sourlands. It is not unusual for the weather station to record wind gusts topping out at 55 to 60 MPH on windy days.