Remembering the Friday, January 20, 1854 Tornado Outbreak In Indiana & Ohio & PennsylvaniaJanuary 17th, 2013 at 11:10 pm by Chad Evans under Chad's WLFI Weather Blog
MORE WILL BE ADDED TO THIS & I AM WORKING ON RE-CONSTRUCTING A MAP OF THE SURFACE LOW, COLD FRONT, WARM FRONT, ETC. THAT DAY FROM THE OLD, OLD WEATHER RECORDS & OLD DATA AVAILABLE………………MORE WILL BE ADDED TO THIS………….IT APPEARS THERE MAY HAVE BEEN TORNADOES IN ARKANSAS FROM THIS, TOO. I AM DIGGING MORE INTO THAT RIGHT NOW…………..
In the Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture, it states that an “unequaled storm” occurred at Indianapolis on January 20 with hail that “drifted into hills” & that some places “blew a tornado”. The temperature also dropped from 60 to near 0 in 24 hours. In the second image, I have taken reports from the newspapers, early government weather observers, that early tornado survey, as well as diaries to plot storm reports.
Article from the New York Times:
AWFUL TORNADO IN OHIO — THE TOWN OF BRANDON AMLOST SWEPT AWAY — MOUNT VERNON PARTLY INUNDATED — IMMENSE DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY.
Mount Vernon, (Ohio,) Saturday, Jan. 21.
Yesterday afternoon this section of the country was visited by the
heaviest storm of wind, rain, thunder and lightning, that we have experienced since 1828. A perfect tornado was experienced some six miles south of this. The town of Brandon was almost entirely destroyed, scarcely a house being left to mark the site of the place. DR. WHEATON was seriously, if not mortally injured, and a MRS. SMITH was also badly hurt. The tornado was about half a mile wide, tearing up everything in its track, but the full extent of the damage we have not yet been able to learn. Our streams have overflowed their banks, and EBENEZER JENKINS, while attempting to cross Armstrong River last evening, was thrown from his buggy and drowned. BUCKINGHAM & Co’s stable was struck by lightning and destroyed. The lower part of our town was almost inundated by the tremendous quantity of rain that fell, and out streets look more like rivers than thoroughfares. The damage must be very heavy, as the sectioni through which the storm passed was thickly settled.
Here’s a newspaper article from Feb. 14, 1854:
“To-day, about 4 o’clock, P. M., the town of Harrison, (twenty miles northwest of Cincinnati) was visited by a fearful and destructive tornado, tearing down dwellings, stables, &c. The course of the current of air was nearly from southwest to northeast, and the width of its track was about one hundred yards. A thunder shower came on from about N.W., with indications of a heavy rain which was realized. Probably ten or fifteen minutes after the commencement of the rain, the tornado came down the White Water Hills, northwest of town, and about west of GOODLEY’S Mill, and struck the town in the direction of the Presbyterian Church, and crossing the pike near the east end of the town. It left in its track such destruction and desolation as we have never before seen. Houses, stables, fences, trees and out-buildings were prostrated, and in many cases blown into the adjoining lots. We were on the ground in a few minutes after the destruction, and gathered up in a hasty manner the items of destruction and loss. There are of course many omissions in the individual losses. A young man by the name of WM. PRUDEN, had his leg broken, and IRONAS HOMAN was dangerously wounded, and several others are more or less injured; but no lives lost. It is a miracle, too, for several houses and shops were entirely blown down.”
Below is an early NWS-type tornado survey in the the American Journal of Science & Arts of November 1854 from O.N. Stoddard of Miami University in Ohio. He calculated the winds in one particular twister in Knox County, Ohio peaking at 173 mph, based on the damage. This would equate to an EF4 tornado by today’s standards.