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DEVASTATING THUNDERSTORM HITS NEW YORK CITY
New York Times: June 19, 1910
CITY GALE SWEPT 13 LIVES LOST
Wind Whirls Through Town in Sixty-Mile Blow and Spreads Havoc.
Much Damage by Lightning
Uptown Subway Flooded and Surface Lines Tied Up for Hours
Boating Party is Missing
Many Buildings Injured by the Gale___$50,000 Damage in the Navy Yard.
Col. Roosevelt having come back to his native land under sunny skies,
and all the functions planned in his honor having passed off in good
weather, a sudden rain and thunder storm of great severity swept down upon
the city shortly after 3 o'clock yesterday. It caused the deaths of 13
persons, injured many others, tied up traffic all over the city, and
throughout the suburbs for several hours, endangered the lives of many
people out on the waters for a day's excursion, demolished numberless flag
poles, church steeples and weak buildings, and thoroughly washed out the
land. Thirteen persons are all that are known to be dead, but many of the
reported missing may have lost their lives.
JOHN ALP, 25 years old, Paterson; drowned in Passaic River.
JOHN DICK, 7 years old, 63 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn; killed by fright at
falling pane of glass.
MARGARET FERRIS, 16 years old, Paterson; drowned in Passaic River.
JULIUS JOSP JOSKA, 16 years. 15 Myrtle Avenue, Corona, L.I.; killed by
lightning in Flushing, L.I.
MISS MARY McGLYNN, 18 years old, 410 West Thirty-third Street, New York;
drowned in Hackensack River.
MRS. AUGUST GERHARDT of 607 Essex Street, Brooklyn, drowned in Jamaica Bay.
FRANK ROSS, 52 years old, 209 North Eighth Street, Brooklyn; killed by
PIETRO SANTAMAURITO, address unknown; killed by falling smokestack at Willow
and Cypress Avenues, Queens.
FREDERICK WEBBER, 21 years old, 60 Van Cortlandt Avenue, Ridewood, L.I.;
drowned in Hackensack River.
Four men reported drowned off Sea Gate.
The tent of the Forepaugh & Sells Brothers' Circus at 155th Street and
Eighth Avenue was badly torn by the wind and the audience thrown into a
panic. Mrs. FLORENCE PRATT of 824 ST. Nicholas Avenue, one of the
spectators, was struck by a falling tent pole and her skull fractured.
A few minutes after 3 o'clock the skies began to grow dark. The
temperature fell 22 degrees, going from 82 to 62 in a few minutes. The wind
rose from a breeze of 10 miles an hour to a gale of about 60 miles an hour,
which lasted for only five minutes, from 3:16 to 3:21 o'clock.
THE CITY IN DARKNESS
From 3 to 3:30 o'clock such a pall of darkness fell upon the city that
all the business houses turned on their lights. The lights ran up Broadway
as they do when the sun goes down, and then half an hour later the skies
were again so clear that the lights were not at all necessary.
During the five ferocious minutes of the wind, when it attained its
greatest velocity, the air was thick with flying objects, clothes lines,
scantlings from buildings in the course of erection, scuttle doors, flags,
window frames, and innumerable newspapers were caught up from the streets
and from buildings, whirled around in the air, tossed back and forth, and
then dropped on the ground.
By 3:45 o'clock the wind had softened down again, the skies had
lightened up cheerfully, and only a slight rain was falling. By 4 o'clock
the storm was all over. In its course the wind had shifted from southwest to
northwest. Much lightning accompanied the storm, doing considerable damage
At the Weather Bureau it was explained that the storm came out of a
subordinate area of low pressure that extended in the morning over the New
England States. New York happened to be in the southwest quadrant of the
zone, where such sudden rainstorms oftenest happen in the Summer.
HOW THEY WERE KILLED
The first death reported from the storm was that of PIETRO
SANTAMAURITO, who was alone in the engine room of Garuer's Brewery, Cypress
and Willow Avenues, Queens, when the storm broke. Lightning demolished the
smokestack, a heavy part of it falling through the roof of the engine roof
and killing the Italian. The damage done the brewery was estimated at
The next death was that of sixteen-year old JULIUS JOSKA of 15 Myrtle
Avenue, Corona, L.I., who was trying to shield his two little sisters with
an umbrella at Flushing. The three had been out walking. The rain came up
suddenly. The boy led his sisters under a tree, but the rain was coming down
so fast that he raised his umbrella. Lightning struck the tree, killing him
instantly, but not injuring the girls. DR. DIXON, who came with the
ambulance from the Flushing Hospital, took them to that institution.
FRANK ROSS, 52 years old, of 209 North Eighth Street, Brooklyn, was
cleaning out the backyard of the house at 212 North Eighth Street, Brooklyn,
yesterday afternoon when a tree that had been shattered fell across him,
crushing in his back, killing him instantly.
Seven year old JOHN DICK was standing in front of his home at 63
Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, when a huge plate glass window fell down in front
of him. It had been blown out of a near-by house. Screaming at the top of
his voice, the boy ran into his home, fell to the floor, and died before aid
could be given him. Heart failure due to fright, the doctor said.
FISHING SMACK OVERTURNS
In the height of the storm ARTHUR W. LOTT, Superintendent of
Seagate, and HENRY EAGLE, one of his employees, cowering for shelter under
a shack near the seashore, saw a 45-foot fishing smack overturn about 700
feet from shore, and four men spilled from it. In the semi-darkness,
illuminated by sudden flashes of lightning, they could see the four men
struggling around in the seething water, but the smack itself, caught in the
high seas, drifted swiftly outward and away.
So high was the wind and so turbulent the sea that the two watchers
were unable to venture out to the rescue. They could only stand in the
darkness and watch. Presently the men in the water were lost to view, and a
little later the smack was blotted out in the darkness.
It was fully half an hour later, when the seas had quieted a bit, that
Lott and Eagle were able to draw up one of the rowboats used by the Seagate
Summer colonists, and put out to the rescue. At the place, where the smack
had overturned there was no trace of the men, but about a mile further out,
in a sea still too high for them to approach, they saw the overturned smack
rapidly drifting out to the ocean. They were unable to go closer to discover
more about the boat.
Later they reported the matter to the Coney Island police, and CAPT.
MIKE GALVIN, with several policemen, put out in rowboats. They could not
find the smack nor discover anything concerning the men.
CAPT. GALVIN concluded that the four men had been fisherfolk cruising
off Staten Island when the storm broke. He considered it improbable that
they had been able to swim ashore unobserved by LOTT and EAGLE as the beach
at that point is quite open.
THE NAVY YARD HIT
The costliest damage that was reported from the storm was at the
Brooklyn Navy Yard, where the battleship Florida narrowly escaped serious
injury. The $250,000 crane Hercules on a float was moored near the
Connecticut. In the midst of the storm the float on which the crane stood
broke loose from its moorings and went drifting out to the sea wall, the
shock toppling it over into the water. Sixteen men at work on the float
jumped into the water to save their lives and none of them was hurt.
The battleships Connecticut, Nebraska, Alabama, Florida, and Rhode
Island were moored at the navy yard, but it was reported authoritatively
that none of them was damaged in the least. The damage resulting from the
breaking loose of the crane float was estimated at $50,000.
When the wind was at its height the chain which guides the passenger
ferryboat from the mainland to the cob dock at the yard broke and sent the
little vessel, with twenty passengers on it, adrift. Fortunately the wind
was blowing in from the river and the little craft escaped being blows far
from shore. At is was, it was blown against the side of the cob duck, where
the passengers were landed. Most of them were women visitors at the yard,
and it was with considerable difficulty that the men on board assured them
that there was no danger. They became hysterical and had to be quieted.
The stern mast on which were fastened the colors of the receiving ship
Hancock was blown overboard. In the face of blinding rain and wind the
sailors had a difficult task in securing the large awning that covered the
deck. Part of it was torn and flapping in the wind about the deck of the
vessel. Some of the Jackies had to climb the mast to unfasten the cords
which bound it.
THE SUBWAY FLOODED
The quick deluge of water flooded the Broadway branch of the Subway
from 157th Street to 168th Street, tying up traffic above 137th Street from
3:28 o'clock to 4:28, when the service through was resumed. But as late as
5:30 o'clock several inches of water, were on the roadbed of the tunnel.
Buyers of tickets were told that they could not travel above 137th Street on
the Broadway branch for an hour.
The 157th Street station platforms are being lengthened, and the
workmen had left an opening to the street above through which the sudden
flood of water poured down into the Subway. The ordinary drainage facilities
were not adequate to the task put upon them, and were quickly dammed up. The
water rose, caused a short circuit, dimmed the lights, put the signals out
of business, and automatically stopped the trains in the block affected.
It is down hill from 157th to 168th Street, and the water ran as far
as the latter station. Presently the tracks were blocked as far back as
137th Street and for several stations above 168th Street. The passengers
were nervous on the blocked train, most of whose lights were dimmed, but no
one was injured. The wait in the heated trains was irksome.
Supt. MERRITT and Trainmaster HAYES of the Interborough Rapid Transit
Company happened to be on a northbound train that was stopped by the
automatic blocking system just south of the 157th Street Station. They
walked to the station, turned off the current, and then allowed the train to
run down to the station of its own momentum. These passengers of this train
got off, but many a hundred others had to spend an hour in heated and badly
aired trains that were stuck.
Supt. MERRITT telephoned for a gang of workmen, who cleared away the
debris that had collected over the manhole covers, and thus succeeded in
draining the water off enough to resume traffic within an hour. Water blew
so fast into other parts of the Subway, chiefly through the ventilating
gratings, that there were several inches of water on the track at many
points, but traffic was not interfered with except at 157th Street.
STREET CAR LINES DELAYED
At many points over Manhattan traffic on the surface lines was delayed
by water flooding the slots and by an occasional tree falling across the
tracks. Brooklyn was the worst sufferer, though the Bronx reported a few
Short as it was, the sixty-mile wind did excessive damage in the city
parks. Down in Battery Park, where great preparations had been made for the
home-coming of Col. ROOSEVELT, the wind swept over a number of trees, ripped
all the gay hunting and festooning off the reception stand, and threw down
an emergency tent hospital that had been provided for the possible injured
during the reception of the morning.
Two nurses and two men who were caught under the canvas fought their
way out from it and ran across the park into a near-by office building for
A number of windows in the Aquarium were smashed by the wind and the
huge 60-by-40-foot flag was torn off the Constitution flagpole at the water
front. This is perhaps the biggest flag ever made in this country, topping
the pole that used to be the mainmast of the yacht Constitution. The flag
was blown over the Barge Office. It flapped against a Staten Island
ferryboat, and then fell into the bay. The flag was also blown off the
Washington Building, at 1 Broadway.
Many people crossing the park from the ferryboats and pleasure craft
that had succeeded in getting to land were blown off their feet. The wind
tore the baby out of a woman's arms just as she was about to enter the
Subway and dropped it into a puddle of water, from which it was rescued by a
Central Park had an extra large crowd of people in it when the storm
broke. Five minutes before the storm broke the sun was shining. When the
downpour did come the Arsenal Station was packed with people. A crowd of
forty took refuge under the Transverse Arch, near Fifth Avenue and
Sixty-fifth Street. They were almost instantly marooned, the water rising a
foot and cutting them off on both sides.
MAROONED IN CENTRAL PARK
They dragged benches under the arch and stood on them, but in a few
minutes, it was above their ankles even as they stood. They were rescued by
Capt. CARSON and several policemen, who wading into the water above their
knees, cleared the drift away from the manhole covers and allowed the water
to drain away.
Broken limbs and toppled trees were all over the Park when the storm
had passed. The first band concert of the season in Central Park, which was
to have been conducted by NAHAN FRANKO, had to be called off.
Fallen trees, broken limbs, and thick mattings of fresh leaves, were
found in the Bronx Park, in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, and in the smaller
parks all over the city.
The aged tree at Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street, in front of the old
Hotel Brevoort, blew down between two Eighth Street trolley cars. The
branches struck the windows of both cars, breaking some of the window panes
and scattering glass upon the crowded passengers. Thinking that something
terrible had happened, they fled panic-stricken from the cars, rushing
through the rain to any shelter they could find. Traffic was blocked on this
line for an hour. The hulk of the old tree was cut in two and hauled in
front of LISPENARD STEWART'S home at 6 Fifth Avenue.
All over the city occasional trees that adorn the streets were blown
down. A big elm on Broadway, between Eightieth and Eighty-first Streets
fell, its topmast branches sweeping against a passing Broadway car. The
passengers leaped to their feet in terror, but no damage was done beyond a
few broken windows.
STREET CAR IN DANGER
Struck by lightning, a tree in front of 1074 Boston Road, the Bronx,
began toppling just as a north-bound trolley car approached. The motorman,
seeing what was threatened, put on all the power he had, shooting his car by
just in front of the toppling tree. No one was hurt, but the women screamed
Over in Brooklyn, which has more trees on its streets than Manhattan,
several surface car lines were put out of commission until last midnight by
trees that had fallen across the tracks. The Gates Avenue surface car line,
the Tompkins Avenue line, the Culver and the Bath Beach lines were all out
of commission for hours last night.
The flag and flagpole on the Memorial Arch at the head of Prospect
Park were blown away, and St. Paul's Church, Court and Congress Streets,
lost ten feet of its flagpole. The roofs of three houses at 162, 164, and
168 Decatur Street were blown off, but no one was injured.
Another of Brooklyn's accidents was the instant killing of two horses
by lightning in front of 340 Greene Avenue. WILLIAM HEIN of 324 Pearl
Street, Brooklyn, who was driving them, escaped unhurt.
A bolt of lightning shattered a flagpole above the ballroom at Luna
Park, where several hundred of the 145,000 persons at Coney Island had
gathered for shelter when the storm broke. The crowd was thrown into a
panic, but was finally quieted by park attendants and special policemen. The
American flag attached to the pole blazed upon the roof, but the fire was
extinguished in the rain.
Scores of rowboats, launches, and small sailing boats were torn from
their moor-tugs at Sheepshead and Gravesend Bays. The launch Goldfinch,
containing FRED RULOFF and HENRY MAURELL of Bath Beach, was overturned in
Gravesend Bay about half a mile from shore. The two men managed to cling to
the overturned boat until FRANK PLUMBER and ERNEST FISCHELL, members of
the New York Canoe Club, reached them in a rowboat and brought them ashore.
TRAIN CREW TO THE RESCUE
A Long Island Railroad train which left the Flatbush Station in
Brooklyn at 3:09 o'clock had on it several policemen who were to take part
in a thrilling series of rescues down at Jamaica Bay. As the train neared
Broad Channel the motorman stopped his train and sent word to Conductor
BARTOW. Dead ahead were two figures struggling on the trestle and the water
was only a few feet below them.
MRS. RUDOLPH STOHR of 181 East Seventy-fifth Street had just got out
of a rowboat and was trying to get up on the trestle. She was unable to pull
herself up, and her companion. RUDOLPH PHOESTOR, of 207 East Thirteenth
Street, could not assist her. Every minute or two the waves moved the boat
against her, loosening her hold on the trestle, and making her slip back.
The train was stopped and the policemen on board, assisted by the
passengers, made ready to rescue the couple. Lieut. WHEELWRIGHT took a
section of the bell rope from the train, jumped into the water, tied it
around MRS. STOHR'S waist, and thus she was hoisted on to the trestle and
taken aboard the train.
The train had gone but a hundred feet further across the waters of
Jamaica Bay when it came upon three more hanging to the trestle. CHARLES P.
SCHMIDLING of 339 South Fourth Street, Brooklyn: OWEN W. ETTLINGER of 561
West 163d Street, and WILLIAM VOLKMANN of 59 Matilda Avenue, WAKEFIELD,
were pulled up out of the water by the squad of policemen. This party, too,
had been out in a rowboat and had been caught by the storm. They were taken
on board the train, and it went on its way.
A little further on the train came upon STEWART BARNES, SEARLE
ALLEN, and F.J. BOYD, all of 15 Chase Avenue, Rockaway Beach, who were
pulled out of the water. Lieut. WHEELWRIGHT here again used the bell rope as
a life line. By this time almost all the rope in the train had been used.
MR. ALLEN and MR. BARNES are well-known vaudeville actors.
WHO THE RESCUERS WERE
All the men taken on board were finally transferred to St. Joseph's
Hospital at Far Rockaway. None of them was seriously injured, and most of
them left the hospital after a few hours.
The policemen who took part in these rescues, in addition to Lieut.
WHEELWRIGHT of the Far Rockaway Station, were Patrolmen THOMAS LEECH, J.W.
ENNIKER, J. J. KENNY, and W.J. HEGEMAN of the same station. Along with them
was Sergt. MULHOLLAND of the Rockaway Beach Station.
The train had attached a special car that was carrying a party of
young men down to the Edgemere Club at Edgemere. Some of those who helped
with the rescue were RAWSON TODD, HENRY PFARRIUS, T.J. GREEN, and
MRS. AUGUST GEBHARDT of 607 Essex Street, Brooklyn, was drowned in
Jamaica Bay, near Goose Creek, just after the wind struck there. She was
with her husband in a naphtha launch. The launch capsized and both were
thrown into the water. GEBHARDT managed to keep afloat by clinging to the
bottom of the boat, but his wife sank and did not come up.
GEBHARDT clung to the boat until it drifted near shore, then swam to
land and went home. Late last night MNRS. GEBHARDT'S body was found by W.H.
DOXIE, a volunteer life guard. It is now at the Rockaway beach Police
JOHN M. KELLY, a grocery wagon driver, living at 523 East
Seventy-eighth Street, while fleeing before the storm on Sixth Avenue, near
Fifteenth Street, drove his wagon into an elevated pillar. He was thrown
from the wagon to the street. Policeman MANN of the new West Twentieth
Street Station stopped the horse and had KELLY, who was suffering from
severe contusions and shock, removed to the New York Hospital.
The wind blew two painters off a scaffolding in front of 12 West 114th
Street. They fell to the pavement twelve or fifteen feet below, and one of
them, VINCENT TEDORO of 239 East 108th Street, was removed to Harlem
Hospital suffering from contusions and bruises. The other painter was not
EMMET DAWSON, a salesman, who lives at the Hotel Earlington, while
rushing from the Hotel Knickerbocker to a near-by Subway station, was blown
down. Policeman ANDREWS picked him up unconscious, and removed him to the
New York Hospital.
Many lives were endangered on Long Island Sound. But for Five life
savers at Throgg's Neck there would have been a number of persons drowned.
As it was several small rowboats caught barely escaped being capsized.
Capt. THOMAS C. PETERSON, Lieut. WILLIAM SPOONER, WILLIAM
SEHLIECH, FRED DARELLEY, and HAROLD OSTERHAUS, of the United States
Volunteer Life Saving Corps, made the rescues. They were in PETERSON' steam
launch off Throgg's Neck when the storm broke. Two miles off shore the
launch came upon a skiff on the point of sinking, and in which were ABRAHAM
PAKULSKY of 843 Fox Street, the Bronx, and his brother DAVID. They were
dragged aboard the launch just as the skiff sank.
Cries were heard, and the launch steamed further into the Sound and
came upon a rowboat in which were Mr. and Mrs. J. F. TOMMASI of 58
Livingston Avenue, Yonkers, their 6-year-old daughter, EDNA, and 10-year-old
son, LORENZ. They were rescued. From another rowboat ABRAHAM FUCHS of 2414
Bathgate Avenue, the Bronx, was taken. All of the rescued ones were taken to
the hotel of WILLIAM JUDGE, at Throgg's Neck.
While they were being cared for, the rescuers again steamed out into
the Sound. From a skiff L.W. CYRENNIUS of 526 West 151st Street and his wife
were taken just in time to save them from being drowned. HENRY BOWERS of
684 Cortlandt Avenue, the Bronx, was also rescued.
PANIC ON EXCURSION BOAT
The steamboat Orient was caught in the storm a short distance above
Hell Gate as she was returning with a full load of passengers from Glen
Island. Capt. LEWIS, realizing the danger of attempting to negotiate the
hazardous passage, laid to off Ward's Island and waited for the storm to
He reported that as he lay to off Ward's Island the steamer Grand
Republic passed by on its way to some Long Island resort. It had an
excursion party aboard, and the passengers were huddling in the middle of
the boat, trying to keep out of the way of the deluge which was pouring down
Caught by the squall in a small motor boat in the Hudson, GEORGE
BROWN of 101 West 145th Street and PHILIP CARROLL of 300 West 115th Street
managed to drive their frail craft into the lea of the recreation pier at
the foot of 129th Street. While they were making vain attempts to reach the
pier flooring two members of the United States Volunteer Life Saving Corps.
JOHN BRENNAN and WILLIAM GUERRA, ventured out from the shore end of the
structure in a small row boat and took them off. Scarcely had they reached
the shore when the motor boat sank.
When the squall struck the North River it swept across from the Jersey
side with great force, and two large brick barges moored to the pier at the
foot of 155th Street were torn loose. They were blown down the river and
crashed into a cluster of twenty launches off 153d Street. Most of them were
owned by members of the Cob Web Boat Club.
THOMAS READ, a member of the boat club, was in one launch and was
thrown into the water. JOHN ERICKSON, master of the Alpine, one of the
barges, threw a life preserver to READ. He clung to it until he was pulled
aboard the barge by ERICKSON, who tossed him a rope. The New York Central
Railroad tug Rellance happened along and towed the barges back to the
When the thunderstorm broke over Staten Island the quarantine
disinfecting steamboat James W. Wadsworth, which was moored alongside the
Swinburne Island pier, crashed against the pier, smashing her rail, damaging
her pilot house, and causing her to spring a leak. No one was hurt and the
damaged vessel was towed to Quarantine.
Researched and Transcribed by Miriam Medina
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