Henderson County, Kentucky
Summer storm damaged crops, trees, buildings
It was the kind of day that sent everyone in search of cold lemonade and a shady spot. That Friday, June 20, 1914, was a genuine misery-maker, with the heat wrapping itself about residents and the humidity prompting plenty of brow-mopping.
Those who ventured downtown to shop no doubt took refuge under the awnings that were so prevalent over the walkways and talked about how rare it was to have such oppressive heat so early in the summer.
As the day melted into twilight, it appeared some relief might be in sight. Toward the north, clouds started to gather and the wind began to stir.
But the clouds didn't bring a gentle, cleansing rain. Instead, the county was visited by what residents termed a "baby cyclone."
Local historian and newsman Jack HUDGIONS wrote later that hail "as large as partridge eggs" fell for ten minutes and that powerful winds uprooted giant trees "and twisted limbs from shade trees in the city."
North of the city, several buildings were blown down and "wheat shocks scattered to the four winds. For more than 30 minutes the storm played havoc with the city, and in many sections of the county," HUDGIONS' account related. "On the Spottsville road, knew high corn was shredded, hail stones breaking all blades off and laying it low. Small tobacco was damaged to some extent. Fields of wheat that hadn't been cut were battered down.
"Electric and telephone lines in the county were decommissioned by the hail and wind.
"The hail stones broke many windows in the city and county. Both floral houses in the city suffered heavy damage."
As citizens surveyed the aftermath of the fury wrought by the "young cyclone," they probably thought they'd been hit pretty hard. But they had no inkling that the storm was a mere forerunner of something much worse. Only 26 days later, on July 16, Henderson would lie in the path of a tornado that would kill two and leave a wide swath of the city in ruins.
The area was caught in a bizarre weather pattern that had begun with the "great sleet" of 1901 when sleet fell for three weeks in February and horses had to have special shoes to keep their footing on local roads.
There would be unusual weather occurrences for years, culminating in the granddaddy of Ohio River floods in 1937.
Reprinted with permission.