STORY OF TORNADO AND FLOOD
EASTER SUNDAY OF 1913 TRAGIC DAY IN HISTORY OF CALAMITIES—TORNADO STARTS IN MEXICO —ENDS IN RECORD BREAKING FLOODS IN MIDDLE STATES—NATION GREAT IN POWER TO HELP—MILITARY AND NAVAL FORCES AS LIFE SAVERS.
Spring came to the earth in 1913 and the northern half of the United States was in the grip of a snow storm. In some portions a blizzard wailed through the towns and cities and the hope of an early spring was blasted. But nature had still greater surprises for the people of the United States and a few days after spring officially was present the greatest tornado and rain and the greatest inland flood in the history of the country fell upon the people.
Easter Sunday is the day when all self-respecting persons are expected to have new garments and to attend Worship which is embellished with the best music rendered by the greatest singers to be obtained. On Easter of 1913 the rains fell and weather wise persons looked at the skies. Few spots in the west and middle west permitted Easter hats or garments unless protected by a closed carriage or limousine car.
All day the elements acted strangely. Late in the afternoon the tornado which gathered in the southwest, probably starting in Mexico, raced north and east. It struck smaller villages and towns in Colorado and Nebraska. It now is known that the wind played a queer trick. It appeared to hit the earth at one spot, bound into the clouds and pass over miles of territory, leaving buildings and crops and people unharmed.
What forces decided that the tornado should hit the earth at Omaha, one of the proudest cities of the nation, cannot be known by men, but just at the city’s borders the winds came down and ripped a path through the thickly inhabited portion, taking rich and poor before its relentless fury.
In the states farther east the storm manifested itself in rain. Never was the earth so drenched. The ground was frozen and the waters rushed into the streams.
Telegraph lines were broken, railway trains stopped, bridges washed out and millions of people unaccustomed to seas or lakes found their homes in the midst of raging waters.
The first news told of the unhappy plight of the people of Dayton, Ohio. Because of its size the attention of the world was focused upon Dayton, but scores of smaller places were also engulfed and the inhabitants left to fight the awful battle almost alone.
Later, Peru, Ind. was reported under water and currents relentless in their force swept through the streets. Columbus, Ohio, Logansport, Ind., Terre Haute, Ind., which also was hit by the tornado, West Indianapolis, Marion, Ind., and a score of other communities were reported wholly or partly submerged.
All the customary activities of the people of Indiana and Ohio were abandoned. Railway service was abolished and trains with relief parties wandered about from one division to another seeking an approach to the stricken cities.
Now and then the train would reach the limit and then the rescuers would unload the cars and take to wagons and automobiles, to rafts or boats. These attempts to push on to the thousands marooned on roof tops and in trees were sometimes successful but more often a failure.
Not until Wednesday was the relief begun in a way that promised success. Life saving crews from the Ohio and Great Lakes were dispatched to the scene, their boats, cutters and power vessels of light craft being hastily loaded upon flat cars. The naval reserves of lake and river towns were ordered into the field and found service in the prairies and hill country far from the seas. The Culver Military academy on Lake Maxinkuckee, Ind., where sons of wealthy men are educated and taught military and naval practices, turned out its sturdy young men.
Boats housed for the winter were hauled to the railways and the boys with their military instructors left their studies to engage in the battle with the flood. In the swift currents and dangers of floating debris the training of the lads was shown to be of great service. They handled their cutters on the Wabash river and the Eel river in such a way that hundreds of men, women and children were soon taken from the tops of their houses, from top floors of office buildings and cared for in camps and other refuges. The Great Lakes Naval training station maintained at Lake Bluff, Ill., near Chicago by the federal government was directed to send a crew and cutters to the flood district and the boys and their experienced officers were taken in all haste by railway trains to the dreadful scene.
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