Bloomington, IL Tornado, Jun 1902

Scene Of Terror

Perhaps the most hair raising experience of the whole night was that of the young women who man the exchange offices of the telephone companies. Throughout the storm the air was blue with the overflow of electric fluid. The switchboards and wire bristled with streaks of fire, and the operators could do nothing except keep as far away from the center of this dangerous activity as possible, and rely on Providence or luck for delivery from injury and death. Fortunately no fatalities were reported.

Origin of the Storm

The onslaught of the elements followed a day of oppressive and almost suffocating heat.

About 9:30 great banks of ominous clouds, and flashes of lightning were a forerunner of what was to come.

By 10:30 the indications could not be mistaken. The wind grew in velocity, and the rolling, tumbling storm clouds in the northwest told of the coming fury.

Last Quarter of an Hour

It was just 11 o’clock when the full force of the storm broke over Bloomington. It came with a wind of hurricane proportions, accompanied with a veritable cloud-burst of rain.

For fully fifteen minutes the force of the wind was unabated, and at no moment could the terror-stricken people who were roused out of their slumbers by its advent tell or foretell what effect it would have next. A terrifying din of falling trees, crashing glass, swinging wires added to the howling of the wind, and made the experience one that will last through a lifetime of those who lived through it.

Cut Off from the World

After the storm had passed Bloomington was isolated from the outside world. Not a line of information could be gathered from outside places, either by telegraph or telephone for several hours.

The consequences of this interruption is that practically no reports of the storm’s work in McLean and surrounding counties could be obtained.

Blocked By Trees

The streets in the residence districts were simply blocked with trees. Every street which had big trees, such as Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, etc. were choked with limbs. In front of the Edwards school house limbs a foot in diameter were torn off and thrown clear across the street. The front of Freese Bros.’s grocery store is blockaded with broken trees, while passage along the sidewalk is impossibility except in a few places. Trying to traverse the streets in the dark last night it was necessary to go through the yards of residents, crawl under the low hanging boughs of trees, and in some places crawl over the debris.

Linemen Were Out.

On nearly every corner could be seen men with lanterns dodging about among the ruins looking for broken wires. They were the linemen of the different companies and considering the force of the storm comparatively few wires were broken.

Hackmen Stay in Shore.

Hackmen refused to accept calls to the residence streets, averring that they were impassible and dangerous on account of wires and the debris of trees.

The telephone cable opposite the Pantagraph was broken or burned off.

Arnold Hotel Damaged.

A cornice and roof at the northwest corner of the Arnold hotel was ripped and curled back.

The streets are littered with trees, signs, roofs, lawn furniture, telephone and electric light wires, delivery wagons and chimneys. The electric circuits were shut off early in the course of the storm, but there was one live wire reported uptown as late as 12:30. The lights on the underground system were allowed to burn and they frightened many from venturing into the streets.

Rush For Lanterns.

Lanterns were at a premium, and those fortunate enough to possess one would not sell for any price. The police could not report except by coming in to the headquarters and their reports were similar, in that they all contained news of the same character.

The north part of the city was said to be worse littered by the storm than any other part and some estimated the loss of trees to be among the thousands.

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