Rome, GA Tornado, Apr 1921

STORY OF A FROLICSOME TORNADO
(From the Rome News, Sunday, April 17, 1921.)
(By GEORGE MAGRUDER BATTEY, Jr.)

A frolicsome tornado supposed to have been an offshoot of a cyclone starting in Kentucky bounded through the downtown business section of Rome yesterday (Saturday, April 16, 1921), at approximately 11:45 a. m., and left a trail of destruction 500 feet wide behind. The start of it was traced as far down the Coosa as a point between Mt. Alto and Black’s Bluff, where it left the stream and swept across a stretch of green bottom land in a generally northeastern direction.

The tornado fell like a blight upon a quiet negro settlement in the boundaries of Cherokee street, Branham avenue (south), and Pennington avenue, and turned a square block into heaps of brick and loose timbers and snapping trees. Small frame houses that had stood compactly a few minutes before were reduced to piles like jackstraws. Across a ridge studded with stately pine trees the brusque charger raced at 80 miles an hour, breaking pines and poplars in half and bowling over oaks and hickories as their roots snapped under the strain.

Through Myrtle Hill cemetery this first time visitor sped, irreverently upset tombstones and crushed a pavilion into kindling wood; skirted the brow of the hill, swung its tail over the summit of the Confederate monument and swooped like a hungry hawk over the Etowah and down upon peaceful, unsuspecting Rome.

Buildings trembled and struggled in the grip of this unshorn young monster, then gave up parts of themselves, like brick and mortar, tin roofs, chimneys and contents,—anything to be free of his cave-like grip. He hurried on without apologies; knocked down the electrical contraptions raised by man on high poles, smashed windows with the care-free demeanor of a spend-thrift, shoved a cornice off a store to the main street without caring whether it hit anybody on the head or not; blew young ladies’ dresses and tresses in a shocking manner; sent dogs, chickens and birds scurrying to places of safety, even as men; and disappeared with a defiant gesture and a mocking laugh.

The tornado paralelled the Oostanaula river northward up West First street, then executed a right-angle zag and dealt a right uppercut again to the things of the land. Past Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth avenues he leaped, with always the same tale,—a roof lifted off here, a sheet of tin sent smashing through a plate glass window there, a tree sent crashing against a house, a house sat upon until its timbers groaned and gave way.

Near the foot of West First street three mules were killed under electric wires and walls of brick, and their owner was injured; at the jail a lad was hurt, in North Rome a house was blown a mile, scattering five children and a woman along the way.

Then the tornado was lost to view. He had been introduced to Romans most forcibly. Maybe he went where he came from. He was not a very welcome guest. Details of his pranks are to be found elsewhere herein.

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