Meridian, MS City Is Swept By Tornado, Mar 1906
TORNADO AT MERIDIAN, 33 REPORTED KILLED.
BUSINESS SECTION OF MISSISSIPPI CITY SWEPT INTO RUIN.
RESCUERS WORK IN DARKNESS.
RAIN-DRENCHED CROWDS SEARCH FOR BODIES AMONG THE DEBRIS WITH TORCHES AND LANTERS.
Meridian, Miss., March 2. -- At 6:30 o'clock this evening a tornado from the south struck Meridian, sweeping directly through the business centre of the town, and during the twenty minutes it spent in passing, destroyed approximately $5,000,000 in property.
It took the lives of perhaps thirteen white persons and twenty negroes.
At midnight the town is in darkness, the telegraph wires are all down, and the only communication with the outside world is over the long-distance telephone to New Orleans and Mobile.
Every effort is being made by the authorities, aided by volunteer searching parties, to ascertain the loss of life, but owing to the darkness, the pouring rain, and the debris filling the streets, it has thus far been impossible to make much headway, or even to discover with any degree of certainty the destruction of property.
Several fires started in the ruins, but the rain and the fire company together succeeded in quelling the flames.
The list of the dead and the wounded is now partially prepared.
The dead are MACKEY SLAUGHTER, wife, and daughter; MRS. SINGLETON; CLAUDE WILLIAMS; A. T. McINNIS; A. MOBILE, an Ohio conductor; WILLIAM R. NELSON, City Marshall, and WILLIAM JOHNSTON.
Among the wounded are Capt. CHARLES ELMIRA; W. J. WOODSIDE; T. H. BROWN; ERNEST BENNETT; FRANK WOODRUFF; WILL YARBOROUGH; and A. C. MORRISON.
Several of these are fatally hurt. Nearly all were taken from the debris of the MEYER NEVILLE hardware store.
Two dead men were taken from the JOHNSTON Transfer Company, but they have not been identified. Another is missing.
It is reported that in the negro district fully a score of lives were lost and that several houses were burned, the inmates being cremated under the debris.
Among the chief buildings destroyed were:
MEYER NEVILLE Hardware Company's building, in Front Street, seven stories. Loss, building, $100,000, stock, $150,000.
Grand Avenue Hotel, brick, four stories, Front Street and Grand Avenue. Loss, building and furnishings, $50,000.
THOMAS LYLE Wholesale Grocery Company's building, four stories. Loss, building, $35,000, stock $40,000.
ELMIRA Restaurant, two stories. Loss, $10,000.
JOHNSTON Transfer Company, two stories. Loss $10,000.
CULPEPPER Hotel, Front Street and Grand Avenue, opposite Grand Avenue Hotel, three stories. Loss, $15,000.
Young Men's Christian Association Building, two stories. Loss, $15,000.
Freight depot, New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, partially destroyed, freight damaged. Amount unknown.
Probable damage to electric lighting plant, amount not known.
PEARCE Compress, damages by fire and wind, loss unknown.
Many smaller buildings and some residences in the outskirts damaged to an amount not known.
The tornado struck the town from the south, coming north through Front Street, and going directly through the heart of the business section, then verging over the east side, where a number of the smaller residences are located. Barely twenty minutes elapsed from the first moment of knowledge of danger until the storm was dying away in the distance.
Dusk had just fallen, and the streets, particularly Front Street, where the storm spent its fiercest force, was lighted, and the business day was just coming to an end. In a short quarter of an hour the new brick buildings on both sides of Front Street, for nearly two blocks, were wrecked, while a swath a block wide and fourteen squares long was cut from end to end of the town, in which practically everything was damaged or altogether leveled.
The town was in absolute darkness, and a torrent of rain began to deluge the entire city. For a time absolute confusion reigned, and the wildest reports were sent out over the long-distance telephone from an office at the outskirts of the city. The telegraph wires were tested and found to be out of business. Committees were hastily organized from the volunteer workers, and at once began work.
The tornado had first struck the corner of Grand Avenue and Front Street, after tearing down the smaller buildings further out. The Culpepper Hotel had been partially wrecked. Then Grand Avenue Hotel, an old brick structure dating to ante-bellum times, had crumbled, the residents barely escaping from the lower floors, although it is supposed that half a dozen inmates, guests or servants are buried within.
Adjoining this hotel was the MEYER NEVILLE hardware store, one door further north up Front Street. It is seven stories high, a modern structure, and when the tornado struck it was just being emptied of the clerks and working force. How many persons were buried in it are not known, but it is certain that the bookkeeper is now within the office, which is completely closed in.
The other buildings listed as completely destroyed wre all in this block.
By 7:15 o'clock men with torches and lanterns were climbing over the debris in this part of the town. One rescue party was working on the MEYER NEVILLE Building. Another was busy in the Grand Central Hotel. The rain and wind began to slacken a little, but did not cease altogether.
Reports began to come in from other parts of the city, including a loss of life and property much greater that is now known to be the case.
By 10 o'clock a better view of the situation was obtainable. It was found that the ELMIRA Restaurant and the JOHNSTON Transfer Company's stables in the narrow street between Front Street and the Northeastern Railroad tracks had been wrecked.
Mayor RIVERS had called for the entire number of able-bodied men he can find and Chief of Police BLOODSWORTH has put his force to work.
The local mililtia company has been ordered under arms and is expected to be on duty within a few hours.
Meridian, which has a population of about 15,000, is the most important manufacturing centre in Mississippi. According to the cenus[sic] of 1900 its railroad machine shops, cotton mills, cottonseed oil mills, lumber mills and other industries had an output of $2,000,000 a year. It is the centre of a grand and growing region. The Queen and Crescent route and Southern Railway run through the city. It is about ninety miles east of Jackson.
Along the business streets of the city were buildings of five and six stories. Meridian was more like an Eastern city than any other in Mississippi.
The New York Times New York 1906-03-03