Author Topic: Tornado of 1895  (Read 3938 times)

ericmartindale

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Tornado of 1895
« on: September 14, 2005, 01:21:40 PM »
I have read old accounts of the 1895 Tornado, which struck on July 13, 1895. The event is referred to in weather history as The Cherry Hill Tornado. Sources indicate that the the tornado started in Warwick (which at that time may have been a larger township), so unsure exactly what town. It narrowly missing Ridgewood and the village of Spring Valley. Spring Valley is in Paramus generally along Spring Valley Road in the vicinity of Forest Avenue and stretching south. The tornado largely destroyed the village of Cherry Hill.  Cherry Hill is now the southern end of River Edge smack along the border of Hackensack. There are many office buildings there and the vacant Hoffman Koos. The historic accounts also reference a second funnel that simultaneously touched down in the Fairmount Section of Hackensack.

The main tornado then crossed the NE tip of Hackensack. Accounts refer to damage to farmland and fences in this area.  It then crossed the Hackensack River and struck the sprawling Phelps estate in West Englewood. It sailed over the Palisades cliffs, and touched down in Harlem and again on Long Island. Several people were killed in Cherry Hill, and others hospitalized. Many houses and other buildings destroyed.  There was one death on Long Island. Newspaper accounts vividly detail the death of Mr.Friedman of Cherry Hill. A witness to the storm saw Friedman thrown out of a window of the hotel he owned, and killed.

The devastation was so complete that the realtors decided to rename the village "North Hackensack" because the name of Cherry Hill was widely associated with the natural disaster. I think that Cherry Hill was part of Midland Township (Paramus, Maywood, River Edge, western Oradell) at that time, but this needs to be confirmed. Im not sure of the date that Midland Township seceded from New Barbadoes Township (Hackensack).

Places of the City of Hackensack that were struck by the massive tornado are now heavily developed. They include Route 4, Continental Plaza, Riverside Square, and possibly the vicinity of the Coach House diner. There may (or may not) have been houses in Hackensack at the very northern end of Johnson Avenue that were impacted. Kinderkamack Avenue did not exist at that time south of what is now the New Bridge Train Station.

This weather event would today be called classified as a tornado swarm descending from a single rotating supercell-type of thunderstorm.  Based on the total destruction of homes, this twister was at least an F3 on the Fujita scale (1 to 5, with 5 being the most severe). Certainly not an F1, which account for most tornados in NJ.  I think that hundreds of people would die, and billions dollars in damage would occur, if a tornado of the same intensity ran the same path of destruction today.  A huge swath from Paramus through Teaneck would look like the gulf coast of  Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.

I am copying pages from a history book on this tornado and will give it to Albert Dib to post.  Every newspaper in the NY metro area carried the story either on July 14 or 15, 1895, so it shouldnt be difficult to find more documentation.  There are probably magazine accounts as well. The Bergen County Historical Society also maintains a collection of photos from the destruction.



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Re: Tornado of 1895
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2005, 01:45:08 PM »
Thanks to Eric Martindale for the following information which is from "New Jersey Weather Book":

Cherry Hill Tornado of July 13, 1895

Shortly before 4:00 P.M. on Saturday, July 13, 1895, a massive black cloud gathered over Cherry Hill near Hackensack in Bergen County and let loose a storm of hail and rain followed by a tornado funnel. Three local residents died, eleven were injured (six of whom had to be hospitalized), and most of the sixty or more dwellings in the village were damaged, some of them completely destroyed.

The general path and destructive characteristics of the tornado were described by a reporter for the New York World:

The path of the tornado is plainly marked from where it struck at Waldwick, in the northwestern corner of Bergen County, until it passed over the Palisades, twenty miles away. It landed in a great piece of woods near Walwick and mowed a wide swath through them, tearing the trees out by the roots. Rounding along in a southeasterly direction it passed the villages of Ridgewood and Spring Valley, levelling everything in its path. Then it swirled around Cherry Hill, where the greatest destruction was done, ten miles from the start.  Fences and crops were cut down for three miles more until Teaneck. The magnificent estate of William Walter Phelps was struck. A hundred trees were blown down and part of the greenhouses wrecked, but none of the buildings was damaged. The tornado sailed over the Palisades and passed above Harlem, just touching the city with its lower strata. It then dropped again with destructive force on Woodhaven [Long Island, where it claimed another life].
New York World, July 15, 1895



The Cherry Hill Tornado damaged or destroyed most of the houses in the village. The Cherry Hill Reformed Church is in the background of this photograph. (Courtesy of Mrs. Robert Dickie.) (From the collection of the Bergen County Historical Society)

Blacksmith John H. Jones witnessed the approach of the dense black cloud from the west at about 2:30 P.M. He was in the Reformed church at the time and was astonished at the dense blackness that descended on the village. He ran out into the road, found a heavy wind blowing and a strange-shaped cloud that seemed to be full of yellow light approaching from the northwest.

"I ran across the street to Friedman's Hotel," said Jones to a New York Times reporter, "and cried, 'Look out, there's a heavy gale coming.' I was so excited that I threw my tools on the floor, and went out to the door again to watch the storm. Just then something struck me on the head, and I was lifted up bodily and thrown into the ditch on the opposite side of the road.
"I did not lose consciousness, but crouched down in the ditch clinging to the grass. The big cloud that seemed full of yellow light spun round and round. Everything seemed to go rounddirt, bricks, wood; everything. I could see all that happened. I saw Friedman come flying out of the window of his hotel. I waited until there was a lull, and then rushed out on the railroad track, and lay there till the blow was over.
"As I lay flat on my stomach I glanced around, and saw that my own house had been blown from its foundations and tilted back like a rocking chair with half the hind part of the rockers torn off."

New York Times, July 15, 1895
« Last Edit: January 16, 2007, 09:53:09 AM by Editor »

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Tornado
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2006, 04:02:31 PM »
Latest story: Conditions ripe for tornadoes in northern New Jersey

See Tornado of 1895 story above.

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Re: Tornado of 1895
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2010, 12:26:09 AM »
Here's another picture I'd never seen before:

Caption:

Jone's House, Hackensack, NJ

The New Jersey Historical Society's library is home to thousands of photographs that highlight New Jersey's history. This image of the Jone's [sic] House is just one of many images in our collection. On July 14, 1895 a tornado ripped through the Cherry Hill section of Hackensack raising the Jone's [sic] house ten feet off the ground with the family still inside. Seconds later the house was dropped back onto its cellar. However, it was not properly aligned and thus the house toppled over. Source