Brooklyn, NY Yacht Caught in Tornado-like Storm, Jun 1904


Five of Yachting Party and Two Swimmers Drown.


House Unroofed and Trees Uprooted on Long Island---Boats Capsized---Blinding Dust Raised.

The thunder and wind storm which broke over the city yesterday afternoon was most severe in its effects in Brooklyn, seven persons losing their lives by drowning there, houses being wrecked, roofs ripped off, and trees and fences blown down. In South Brooklyn and Bay Ridge the wind so behaved for a time as to fill the residents with fear that a cyclone was developing. Those persons who were caught out on the water when the squall broke were buffeted about in such a manner as to cause panic in nearly every pleasure party afloat.

The wind sweeping over Gowanus, Gravesend, and Jamaica Bays whipped the waters into foam and swung small craft around as if they were so many chips on the waves. In the suburbs old trees which had stood up strong and sturdily in the morning lay prone on the ground when the storm had passed. From nearly all parts of the borough reports were received of fences razed, tress uprooted, and tin and shingles torn from roofs. Features of the storm in South Brooklyn were great clouds of dust which, raised by the wind, hung over the section until the rain fell.

The storm apparently followed a curved course in sweping[sic] through Brooklyn. Striking Norton's Point at the west end of Coney Island, it swept across Gravesend, Upper New York and Gowanus Bays, then curved to the east, traveling over the central and southern sections of the borough of Jamaica Bay. Coney Island felt only the fringe of the storm and only a little rain fell there, as was also the case in Williamsburg. In the other sections of the borough there was a terrific downpour for fifteen or twenty minutes.

Five Out of Thirteen Drowned.

The worst fatality occurred in upper New York Bay, where a yachting party of thirteen was upset and five---two women and three children---were drowned. This happened off the foot of Forty-seventh Street, Brooklyn. The dead are:

Mrs. KATE CLARKE, fifty years old, of 692 Henry Street, Brooklyn;
LOUISE CLARKE, four years old, her daughter;
her niece, MAMIE CLARKE, two years old, of 213 Thirty-fourth Street, Brooklyn;
LIZZIE IAASON, sixteen years old, of 213 Thirty-fourth Street, and
LIZZIE CLARKE, ten years old, another daughter of Kate Clarke.

The boat, which was a thirty-eight-foot sloop known as the Elsie and Kate, is owned by Peter Clarke, husband of Mrs. Kate Clarke. It left Dougherty's shipyard at the foot of Clinton Street at noon yesterday with a party of thirteen aboard. Besides those who were drowned, those aboard the sloop were Peter Clarke, John Iaason, fourteen years old; Richard McInerney, twenty-four years old; John Kopp, twenty-six years old; Mrs. John Clarke, sister-in-law of the owner of the boat; her son Harold, five years old and Mrs. Kate Clarke's eight-year-old son Peter.

When the storm broke from the south-west with terrific fury, the sloop was standing off Sixty-fifth Street. Instead of lowering the sails, and effort was made by those aboard to drive her before the wind to the foot of Forty-seventh Street, and there dock her. With the coming of the rain the women and children sought shelter in the cabin.

Naval Reserves Go to the Rescue.

A number of the members of the Second Battalion, Naval Reserve, were disporting themselves in the water near their armory at the foot of Fifty-second Street, and saw the yacht driving and careening before the wind. A score or more of the men, under command of Chief Master-at-Arms Thomas M. Walker, put out to aid those in the sloop, taking three whaleboats. Just as the sloop was about 100 feet from the shore they saw the sails belly out and the boat turn keel up, throwing those on the deck into the water.

Walker directed the men in the boats to rescue those in the water, while he and those in his boat dived repeatedly under the upset yacht, and finally succeeded in bringing up the body of Mamie Clarke. She was taken to the dock at the foot of Forty-second Street. In the meantime the overturned boat drifted to the foot of Forty-third Street, and there the Naval Reserves succeeded in getting the body of Mrs. Kate Clarke.

Here Walker offered to have his men right the sloop and get the other bodies, but the owner refused to permit them, and had it towed to the Erie Basin by the tug S. W. McCauley. Here she was righted and pumped out, but no bodies were found. These bodies had not been recovered up to a late hour last night.

When the darkening skies began to herald the coming of the storm there were scores of sailing and fishing parties out on Gravesend and Jamaica Bays. The experiences skippers among them, suspecting what was coming, took no chances and made all speed to the nearest landing places. The inexperienced and the reckless, however, thinking that a mere shower was threatening remained out, some shortening sail and others not even taking this precaution. As a result most of these parties found themselves in trouble when the storm broke.

Many Boats Capsized.

Fully a dozen boats, which were showing a spread of canvas, were capsized, but in most cases the people were fished from the water by the passengers of other boats nearby. A number of small boats which were riding at anchor in Gravesend Bay and off Bay Ridge and on board of which were no persons, were driven ashore. A score or more of unoccupied boats in Jamaica Bay were also capsized or driven ashore.

Three sloops broke from their moorings off the foot of Fifty-fifth Street and grounded on the beach. Such was the force of the wind at this point that a heavy whaleboat on the deck of the steamship Sedgwick, at anchor there, was lifted from its resting place and blown overboard. In Jamaica Bay many of the boats of the fleets of the Canarsie, Jamaica Bay, and Old Mill Yacht Clubs were out when the storm broke, but all managed to beat in to their anchorages in safety.

Two men were drowned off Nassau Beach, Brooklyn. The two men were swimming near old Mill Creek with several companions but the tide was so strong that they could not make shore.

Swimmers Lose Their Lives.

Herman Darkey of Crescent Street heard their cries and shouted an alarm that brought a number of men, including Charles Raynor of the United States Volunteer Life Saving Crew, to the shore. The started in boats to rescue the men, but before they reached them both sank from sight. After cruising about Joseph Reich, 2,726 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, and Anthony Morrell of 202 Vermont Street, came across one of the drowning men and dragged his body into a boat. They raced with him to Old Mill Landing, where unsuccessful efforts were made to resuscitate him.

His companions, who escaped, according to the police, were so frightened that they picked up the effects of the drowned men and started for home without disclosing any of their names. Up to a late hour last night the police had not learned the identity of either of the drowned men and had not found the body of the second one.

On the shore near the Old Mill Creek a small house used by a fishing club was lifted from its foundation of piles and dropped on the meadows, twenty-five feet away. at Hog Point Creek a boathouse was blown down and wrecked.

In Seventy-second Street, Bay Ridge Avenue, Fort Hamilton Avenue, and other streets in the Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton districts, a number of fences were blown down, trees uprooted, and roofs of sheds ripped off by the wind. Fences were also wrecked and roofs damaged in the Parkville section.

Lightning struck in a number of places in the borough, one bolt setting fire to a house and another killing a horse. The fire occurred in a two-story frame house on West Twenty-first Street, near Railroad Avenue, Coney Island. The horse which was killed was struck by a bolt at Sixtieth Street and Gravesend Avenue.

Fatal Bolt at Picnic.

In the Borough of Queens lightning killed one man outright and shocked another quite seriously and several other people slightly. It also struck a schoolhouse and several barns and knocked down many trees. The man killed was John Hofner, thirty-six years old, of 50 East End Avenue, Manhattan, who with his brother, Charles Hofner, twenty-seven years old, of 304 Hopkins Avenue, Astoria, L. I., was truck[sic] by a bolt while standing under a tree in Locust Grove Park, in Winfield. Charles Hofner was badly shocked, but will recover.

They were with several hundred other people who were attending a picnic in Locust Grove Park and were having a merry time on the lawns, which are dotted with many tall trees. The storm broke out so quickly that they did not have a chance to seek shelter in the dancing pavilions. Hofner and his brother, following the example of at least a score of other people huddled together under a tree.

Lightning flashed all around them, clipping off branches of trees. Charles Hofner was about to run to one of the pavilions when his brother seized him by the wrist and told him to remain under the tree. Just at that moment there was a terrific flash of lightning, and the bolt, crashing through the foliage of the tree, struck John Hofner in the right foot. Both men were knocked down and a number of others near by were also felled.

John Hofner was dead when the surgeon arrived. The bolt had burned his clothing and ripped his right shoe from his foot. Charles Hofner, however, quickly recovered. The picnic was broken up.

Wrecked Building Boy's Prison.

Young Frederick Faustich of 213 McDougal Street, Brooklyn, was imprisoned for and hour in a building wrecked by the storm at Canarsie. When the storm broke he was with a crowd of baseball players, and people waiting for transfers at the Canarsie trolley car station. He ran into a newly constructed building across the street, but hardly had he stepped within, when there was a sudden peal of thunder and a roar. The whole building fell with a crash. Timbers were hurled by the wind nearly a quarter of a block away, and two adjoining frame houses were unroofed.

A cry of horror went up from the people on the opposite side of the street and calls were sent for ambulances and for a hook and ladder company. In the meantime it had been reported that half a dozen people were buried in the ruins and volunteers were soon digging their way to the cellar. Only Faustich was there, however. He was taken out by the firemen and police after an hour's work. His right leg was broken, his body was a mass of bruised, and he sustained severe internal injuries.

On the upper floor of one of the adjoining houses Mrs. Catherine Dirlam, fifty-three years old, was found buried under a mass of plaster which had been shaken down by the heavy timbers when they struck the side of the house. She escaped serious injury.

But for the presence of two strong swimmers, Nellie Ecock, sixteen years old, of Sheepshead Bay would have been drowned in the storm. She was taking swimming lessons at Hog Point, at the eastern end of Sheepshead Bay, and became frightened when the storm broke. She struck deep water, and, losing her self-control, sank. Adam Frey, thirty years old, of 634 Broadway, Brooklyn, and his friend, Henry Meyers, thirty-two years old, of 33 Fifth Street, Manhattan, swam after the drowning girl and brought her to the shore, where she was resuscitated.

The New York Times, New York, NY 27 Jun 1904