Cherokee, Buena Vista, Pocahontas & Calhoun Counties, IA Tornado, Jul 1893

July 6, 1893

On the afternoon of July 6, 1893, on the west side of the Little Sioux River, Cherokee County, the people observed a dark cloud lying low in the western horizon. When first seen it presented no unusual appearance but as it slowly arose, with varying currents of air frequently shifting suddenly, angry clouds were seen in the southwest rapidly approaching another swiftly moving cloud from the northwest which seemed to be driven by a strong wind. The distant roar of thunder and sharp flashes of lightning indicated the gathering of a severe storm. The two light colored swiftly moving clouds soon came together and a great commotion was observed. Soon the funnel shape indicating a tornado descended towards the earth and a distant roar was heard.

The storm did its first damage in Rock township where two women were killed. The iron bridge over the Sioux, a one hundred twenty feet span, was hurled from its piers into the river. As the storm neared the Buena Vista County line the cloud lifted for several miles and no damage was done, when it again descended to the earth and destruction again began. It crossed the county about half a mile south of the town of Storm Lake, plowing through the waters of the lake, raising a waterspout nearly a hundred feet in height and wrecking a steamboat. The tornado kept nearly parallel with the Illinois Central Railroad and far enough south of it to miss the villages along its line until Pomeroy, in Calhoun County was reached. Several miles west of the town it is described as presenting an appearance quite similar to that observed when first discovered in Cherokee County. A steady roar was heard and great masses of white clouds were still rushing swiftly together from the northwest and southwest.

Where they seemed to come in violent collision, a dense mass of inky black vapor in violent commotion was forming into elongated trunks dropping down towards the earth, one of which reached and trailed upon the ground swaying back and forth, while the others bounded up and down as they swung along like the trunk of an elephant. The one reaching the ground seemed to be sweeping everything in its path - trees, fences, buildings and animals were raised into the vortex and hurled with terrific force to the earth. Cattle and horses crouched to the ground in terror and the hogs tried to bury themselves in straw stacks. Within and along the surface of the storm cloud there was an incessant play of electricity and fearful jagged bolts shot out of the white clouds on either side of the black mass from which the tongues depended. As seen from Pomeroy the sky was a fearful sight to behold. Clouds of inky blackness filled the entire west rolling and swaying in wild commotion. One cloud came from the northwest and united with another moving from the southwest and trailing beneath the place of collision was the black whirling column dragging upon the earth, from which came a continuous discharge of electricity.