We now reach the town of New Ulm where the storm culminated its energy and the violence of its destructive power. The day had been exceedingly oppressive with a gentle southeasterly breeze, and at 3:30 P. M. a heavy thunder-storm appeared in the northwest, followed in about 20 minutes by the sudden rising in the southwest of a dark and portentous cloud. These two clouds advanced towards each other, their line of march intersecting at what appeared to be a point about three miles west of town. Before the meeting the first strong wind came from the northeast, which continued about ten minutes, during which it rained considerably. At the meeting there appeared to be a terrific contest as to which cloud should have the right of way, and when this seemed to be fully decided the clouds apparently came to the ground, the lower portion having a tendency to elongate and form a spout-like protuberance. Shortly after this action, there appeared to persons observing the phenomenon at some distance from the storm centre, the formation of four large spouts running downward to the earth; sometimes they touched it and again would be drawn suddenly upward to the sky. These spouts were reported as of various shapes: one in the form of an immense inverted cone; another cylindrical; a third like a huge gourd, and another oblong with convoluted edges. They moved along with a swiftly revolving motion from right to left, and their path of destruction was about a mile and a half wide. At 4:45 p. m. (some give it 4:40 and 4:48 p. m.) the tornado entered the town where it remained but 10 or 12 minutes, during which time 47 buildings were blown to atoms, and about 200 either unroofed or otherwise demolished; 6 persons were killed, 53 wounded, and 102 families rendered homeless. The loss to property in the town alone is variously estimated at from $300,000 to $500,000. The general direction of the debris as carried by the wind; particularly in the case of trees, appeared to be to the northeast and northwest, although there were many instances where they pointed to the south and southeast. The boundary lines of destruction were unharmed, while the latter were leveled to the ground. Several persons variously estimated the velocity of the wind at from 90 to 115 miles per hour. As the storm left New Ulm and passed to the southeastward, it visited the country in the vicinity of Butternut Valley and Cottonwood Creek, where several buildings were unroofed and considerable stock killed. At 6 p. m., the storm passed over Blue Earth county, about eight miles north of Winnebago City and disappeared at a point about two miles to the northeastward. For a distance of about ten miles, the destruction to crops and buildings, and the loss of stock was very severe, but the storms path had narrowed considerably at this portion of its course, being now from a quarter to a half mile in width, with considerably diminished energy.
Monthly Weather Review
Volume 9, Issue 7, July 1881