Rochester Tornado Doctor Charles Mayo Response

Dr. C. E. Mayo, of Rochester, from a safe distance and unaware of the destruction going on, saw the distant formation of the cyclone, or whirlwind, and observed its passage.  First he saw indications of two storms apparently moving on parallel lines, one coming from the east of north and the other from west of south.  Both were moving very fast and as they approached and partly passes each other the front of the storm from the south turned in a circle westerly more than half way to the other, which in like manner turned easterly more than half way, thus forming the cloud like envelope of the cyclone, which started out on a line nearly due northeast from the point where the two storms had united to form it.  As the cyclone passed along the doctor closely observed it and noted that it was carrying objects, but as its contact with the earth was hid from his view by intervening hills he did not imagine it was near enough to be touching the any part of Rochester.  His careful observations, then and afterward, confirmed the theory that in the centre of the whirlwind was a force which twisted and pulled up from the earth all objects over which the center passed, while objects swept over by the whirling envelope were dashed down and thrown outwardly and in the vacuum created outside by the motion of the whirlwind, houses collapsed and fell inwardly as the heavier air rushed in to fill the space immediately the whirlwind had gone by.  As the revolving cloud moved along there were intermittent blazes of electricity and great explosions which threw out debris from the center of the storm with tremendous force.  On this the doctor bases a theory that at the instant of these explosions occurring in the condensed air inside the enveloping cloud, and which he attributes to the instantaneous burning of oxygen by electric action, there was developed intense heat which consumed every object within its range.  He accounts for so many light and combustible articles passing through the storm cloud without harm while others as well as heavy and ordinarily fire resisting bodies, have utterly disappeared, by supposing that the articles and objects which, though lifted up, have been found unharmed were taken up after one explosion and were carried out from the center before electricity had been generated or collected to cause another.

It was not long before a man came to the doctor’s gate crying to him to come in haste for half of Rochester was destroyed, a hundred people killed and hundreds more wounded and dying.  Dr. Mayo started quickly and drove furiously until he found that he could not enter the devastated district by any street from that side.  Finally he found a guide to conduct him in from the other side, through space left clear of wreckage, and then he found that though the messenger had in his excitement exaggerated the destruction of property and loss of life, the reality was enough to excuse all the terror and horror of those who first saw what ruin the storm had wrought.

 Source:
The Saint Paul Daily Globe
Saturday Morning, September 8, 1883
Volume VI, Number 251, Page 4

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