Pelham Was Hammered by Three Successive Hurricanes in Six Weeks in 1893
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The tiny little Town of Pelham has been in the bull's-eye of numerous massive storms, not the least of which is the recent storm known as "Super Storm Sandy" that pounded the region on October 28, 2012. Another brutal example occurred in 1938, when Pelham was devastated by the massive hurricane that came to be known as the "Long Island Express," one of the most violent and destructive storms ever to pound the northeast. Nothing, however, compares to the 1893 hurricane season when three successive hurricanes rolled over Pelham during a six-week period from late August to early October.
The three storms brought massive damage to the region. Each was so powerful as to merit a name. The first, on August 24, was the "1893 New York Hurricane" also known as the "Midnight Storm." The second, four days later, was the "1893 Sea Islands Hurricane." The third, on October 13-14, was the so-called "Charleston Hurricane." Today's article addresses all three.
The "1893 New York Hurricane," Also Known as the "Midnight Storm"
On August 22, 1893, a category 3 hurricane brewing in the Atlantic moved toward Cape Hatteras, North Carolina then took a turn due north toward New York City. The storm weakened to category 1 and smashed into western Long Island on August 24 with sustained winds of 85 miles per hour. This clearly was the most devastating of the three hurricanes to pound Pelham and the surrounding region during the six-week period from late August to early October.
The hurricane did most of its damage within fifty miles of New York City including the tiny little town of Pelham. In a single 24-hour period, the storm dropped 3.82 inches of rain, shattering previous records. According to one account:
"The worst of the damage was reportedly confined to a 50 mi (80 km) area surrounding New York City. In a 24-hour period, 3.82 in (97 mm) of precipitation fell, breaking the daily rainfall record. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses accompanied the severe impact. Low-lying areas of the city, particularly those near the coast, were flooded. Roofs and chimneys were ripped off buildings and windows were broken in many homes and businesses. In Central Park, 'More than a hundred noble trees were torn up by the roots, and branches were twisted off everywhere.' The park was devastated and thousands of dead birds fell to the ground after being washed out of, or drowned in, their nests. . . . The storm took the lives of 34 sailors as vessels were blown ashore and men swept overboard. The tugboat Panther, towing two coal barges, was wrecked; 17 crew members perished and three lived. High winds brought down telegraph wires and left the city almost entirely cut off from communication with outside locations. At Coney Island, the storm completely destroyed many buildings, walkways, piers, and beach resorts. Brighton Beach was hit particularly hard. The raging seas swept inland, washing out tracks of the Marine Railway. Bathing houses were moved a great distance by the cyclone. Near the Sheepshead Bay, Emmons Avenue was heavily damaged. Further to the east, at Greenport, numerous yachts were wrecked and scattered. . . . At Brooklyn, still an independent city from New York, houses were dismantled and uprooted trees blocked streets. Damage was widespread throughout the area and flood waters reached waist-high levels."
Source: "1893 New York Hurricane" in Wikipedia -- The Free Encyclopedia (visited Feb. 5, 2017) (footnotes omitted).
The "1893 Sea Islands Hurricane"
On August 27 ,1893, a massive hurricane now known at the "1893 Sea Islands Hurricane" slammed into the east coast with Savannah, Georgia in the bull's-eye. The storm had sustained winds of 120 miles per hour (a category 3 hurricane) and drove a storm surge estimated between sixteen to thirty feet. Experts continue to debate whether the storm reached category 4 and whether the storm surge reached thirty feet. The damage, as one would expect, was enormous. Up to two thousand people died.
The storm proceeded quickly up the east coast and struck Pelham and the surrounding region at about 4:00 a.m. on Monday, August 28. Damage in the region was immense. Indeed, several lives were lost in the New York City region and others died along the Hudson River when tow boats were destroyed.
The storm toppled telegraph poles and wires in the Pelham and Mount Vernon region, cutting off communication. The long distance telephone wires between New York and Boston were destroyed in the area of Eastchester, adjacent to North Pelham. In Pelham Bay, three yachts were cast upon the rocks. On City Island a 70-foot steel steamship yacht was completely wrecked and thrown ashore on Green's flats at City Island. Nearby a 30-foot yacht was found off New Rochelle floating keel up.
In New York City, the high winds "swept away nine houses in Bleecker street." At Gratton Street,. four four-story houses were lifted from their foundations. According to one report: "Along the Coney island beach everything is swept away. On George Tilhouse's grounds the buildings in which the Bolivian Indians were sleeping were blown down. No one was hurt. The southeast portion of the Sea Beach hotel was torn off. Every pane of glass in the building was broken. All amusement machines were unable to stand the pressure and fell."
News reports make clear that trees were toppled throughout the region. The 1893 Sea Islands Hurricane made its mark in Pelham and the surrounding region.
The "Charleston Hurricane" of 1893
In the early hours of Friday, October 13, 1893, a powerful category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour slammed into Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The hurricane, that came to be known as the "Charleston Hurricane," moved across North Carolina and proceeded northward where late that day and in the early morning hours of Saturday, October 14, it passed to the west of New York City as an extra tropical storm.
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"DETAILS OF THE CYCLONE.
IT WAS FAR REACHING AND DESTRUCTIVE IN EFFECTS.
Immense Damage Done by It in Towns, Villages and Country -- Swept Along the Atlantic Coast -- Lives Lost.
New York, Aug. 28. -- A violent storm swept the city and surrounding country from midnight until 8 o'clock this morning. The origin was in a cyclone in the West Indies, and then swept along the Atlantic coast, with the storm center well inland, reaching out in every direction for a distance of over 1500 miles. From observations it is surmised this cyclone has gone westward and make the way out to sea through the St. Lawrence valley. New York was visited by the eastern portion of the storm.
At Philadelphia the velocity of the wind was 36 miles and at Atlantic City 40 miles.
Telegraph wires east from Mount Vernon, N.Y., are down and all communication is cut off.
At Eastchester the damage was great. The long distance telephone between New York and Boston was badly wrecked.
In Pelham Bay three yachts have gone on the rocks.
Reports from City Island say a 70-foot steel yacht is ashore on Green's flats, and is a complete wreck. A 30-foot yacht was sighted this morning off New Rochelle floating keel up.
At 6.30 the wind swept away nine houses in Bleecker street. The houses were unoccupied.
At Gratton street four four-story houses were lifted from their foundations.
Along the Coney island beach everything is swept away. On George Tilhouse's grounds the buildings in which the Bolivian Indians were sleeping were blown down. No one was hurt. The southeast portion of the Sea Beach hotel was torn off. Every pane of glass in the building was broken. All amusement machines were unable to stand the pressure and fell.
The cars of the Brighton elevated and Marine roads are not running to-day on account of the storm. All telegraph and telephone wires are down, and it ws very hard to communicate with people in the city.
All railroad communication between the New Jersey coast resorts and Philadelphia is cut off. The tracks of the Amboy division of the Pennsylvania railroad are under four feet of water between Bay Head and Berkley. Ten feet of iron pier at Long Branch were swept away. Hundreds of acres of corn and tomatoes are ruined.
A part of Hond Wave pier at Ocean Grove was washed away.
At Asbury Park and Ocean Grove the breakers were the biggest ever witnessed.
In Philadelphia Anthony Vanderallee and an unknown Italian laborer were killed by being struck by swinging electric wires. A number of horses were killed from the same cause."
Source: DETAILS OF THE CYCLONE -- IT WAS FAR REACHING AND DESTRUCTIVE IN EFFECTS -- Immense Damage Done by It in Towns, Villages and Country -- Swept Along the Atlantic Coast -- Lives Lost, The Galveston Daily News [Galveston, TX], Aug. 30, 1893, p. 1, col. 6 (Note: Paid subscription required to access via this link).
"HAVOC AT MOUNT VERNON.
Many New Buildings Dismantled -- Telephone Wires Down.
MOUNT VERNON, N. Y., Aug. 29. -- The severest windstorm of the season struck this city about 4 o'clock this morning, and played havoc with trees, telephone and telegraph wires. The Western Union wires east from this place are down and all communication is shut off.
Many new buildings have been dismantled, so that they will have to be torn down and rebuilt. The telephone wires between this place and New York City are all down, and the postal telegraph wires are in but little better condition.
At Eastchester, a suburb east of this city, the damage is greater than here. The long-distance telephone line between New York and Boston has been badly wrecked.
Boats have been wrecked in Eastchester Creek, and in Pelham Bay three yachts have gone on the rocks. Reports from City Island say that a 75-foot steam yacht has gone ashore on Green's Flats and is a complete wreck.
Residence Park, at New Rochelle, also suffered severely from the storm, the handsome shade trees, the pride of its residents, being down in every direction.
A 30-foot yacht was sighted this morning off the New Rochelle shore floating keel up. No particulars as to the extent of the damage to yachts and shipping in general can be learned."
Source: HAVOC AT MOUNT VERNON -- Many New Buildings Dismantled -- Telephone Wires Down, The Evening World [NY, NY], Aug. 29, 1893, p. 2, col. 5 (Note: Paid subscription required to access via this link).
"WE GOT A TASTE OF THE STORM.
Wires Were Prostrated All Around by the Approaching Southern Hurricane.
COMMUNICATION WAS CUT OFF.
So Bad Was the Demoralization That No Messages Could Be Got Through from the South
HARD RAIN IN THIS CITY.
The wind which blew the Vigilant to final victory and last evening howled in fierce eddying easterly puffs across Manhattan Island was the advance guard of a hurricane which is sweeping over the eastern part of the United States, and should be due in full force in this city soon after daybreak to-day.
It may be more violent than the hurricane of last August on land as well as upon sea.
The evidence which it has sent in advance of its coming tends to show that it is a howler.
The wires are all down. There has been no telegraphic communication with Washington or the South since eight o'clock last evening. There is now no communication with Baltimore or Philadelphia. Pittsburgh and Harrisburg are isolated and there is no reaching New Orleans or Louisville even by way of Chicago. The United press late last night made this report: --
The storm has prostrated the wires in all directions. Not a wire is working to Washington. Philadelphia and Baltimore are also cut off, and the few wires working to Chicago and to Eastern points are in such a condition as to make them practically useless most of the time.
The night manager of the Western Union reported at midnight: --
We have had the greatest trouble south of Philadelphia after eight o'clock. We have nothing south of that point working at present. The wires are more or less affected in all directions. The storm is very severe and similar to the last southern cyclone.
WIRES DOWN ALL AROUND.
The Postal Telegraph Company also reported a complete prostration of wires South and Southwest. It had communication with Chicago, but nothing could be heard from any point south of Pennsylvania.
It is practically impossible to get any data from which an idea can be formed as to the velocity of the hurricane.
It was central near Savannah, Ga., yesterday morning, and the barometer was about 29. The storm was then moving in a northwesterly direction, and up to six o'clock last evening appeared not to have made any easterly movement, as did the August hurricane. A telegram from Port Jervis, N.Y., shows that an easterly gale is blowing and that the barometer fell 20 points between eight and nine o'clock. Reports from the Jersey coast show that the storm has not yet passed out to sea, so that it is thought to have been very violent inland.
It has probably swept up through Georgia, Virginia and Central Pennsylvania, and to-day will pass out on to the Atlantic. All coastwise shipping should remain in the harbor.
The storm, which is expected to be more violent to-day, was furious last night in the city. It was accompanied by half a gale and a heavy downpour of rain. The wind at Sandy Hook blew nearly forty miles an hour, and the waves dashed over the sea wall at the Battery.
Nearly all the boats which took parties to the yacht race reported that they had a rough time getting back.
HAD A ROUGH TIME.
The stout little government tug the Ordnance, which went to the race with a party of army officers and their families on board, had a rough and tumble experience a mile or so from Sandy Hook.
She rolled and pitched violently and shipped several seas. Those on board were glad to find refuge in the cabin from the water which scampered over the vessel's decks.
Yachtsmen were thankful that the storm held off as long as it did, and frankly said that if it had been an hour earlier in coming some of them would not have returned at all.
The wind blew down many signs and chimneys throughout the city, and uprooted a number of trees in the higher parts of the town. Cellars were flooded in the lower lying districts.
Mary McDonnald, thirty-five years old, of No. 322 East Sixty-first street, while passing No. 316 East Sixty-first street last night, was struck by a piece of chimney which was blown down by the storm. She was taken to Presbyterian Hospital.
HARD RAIN IN HARLEM.
Harlem got the broadside of the storm, which seemed to have vented its greatest fury on that part of the city. It not only rained in Harlem, it poured. Riverside avenue at eleven o'clock last night was a lake supplied from the door stoops of the rest of Harlem. The water was ankle deep. Along Sixth avenue stores, particularly those on the west side, were flooded. All the gutters ran full and there were no means of outflow for the water that seemed to be blown from Central Park.
At street crossings all sewers were full. To cross a street meant a wade up to ankles or knees. The wind was so strong from the east that shopkeepers on the west side of the streets were compelled to bar their doors toward that point.
DAMAGE BY THE WIND.
An Edison electric light chimney at No. 117 West Thirty-ninth street was blown down at ten o'clock. A large tree in front of No. 53 Charlton street fell and a tall board fence at No. 30 Sullivan street. The hats of many persons coming out of Niblo's Theatre were wafted away and a mighty scramble after them followed.
On all the cross streets the water roared down the areaways. On the elevated railroad platforms passengers held on to the braces and to each other to keep from being blown over. And all the while the gale blew the falling waters westward and flooded every place that had an aperture which faced the east.
A two story frame house in the course of erection in Ralph avenue, Brooklyn, was blown down by the wind. It belonged to Henry Merkin, whose loss is $3,000. A huge tree in Court street, near Third place, Brooklyn, was blown to the street and stopped traffic for some time.
The trolley wire of the De Kalb avenue, Brooklyn, line was blown to the street about twenty minutes before one o'clock this morning. making a circuit with various car rails at the junction of Fulton street and Court street and Myrtle avenue. Four cars were passing at the time, and there were four loud reports. The passengers jumped out. One woman fainted, but no one ws hurt."
Source: WE GOT A TASTE OF THE STORM -- Wires Were Prostrated All Around by the Approaching Southern Hurricane -- COMMUNICATION WAS CUT OFF -- So Bad Was the Demoralization That No Messages Could Be Got Through from the South -- HARD RAIN IN THIS CITY, New York Herald, Oct. 14, 1893, p. 12, col. 1.
"DEATH AND DESTRUCTION.
Following in the Wake of the Devastating Storm of Last Week.
Reports Coming In
Tell of Vessels Wrecked, Attended With Terrible Loss of Life.
The Storm Widespread.
It Raked the Coast, and Going Inland, Made Havoc on the Lakes.
NEW YORK, Oct. 15. -- The third manifestation this season of the pernicious activity of the West Indian hurricane factory reached New York late Friday night, and passed away to the west early yesterday morning. The maximum velocity reached by the wind anywhere near New York seems to have been attained at Sandy Hook, where the southeast gale blew sixty-four miles an hour at ten o'clock Friday night. In the city itself forty-eight miles were registered.
Many of the yachts which were drawn out in such large numbers by the cup races, as well as others that had never left their supposedly safe anchorages, suffered severely by Friday night's storms. The worst accident so far reported was probably that to the Water-witch, belonging to the Jersey City Yacht Club. It was driven ashore at Communipaw, and received severe damages, the exact extent of which is not yet known.
At Pelham Bay several boat houses were damaged, and that owned by J. W. Lorillard was carried out to sea. An unknown schooner ws driven on to the rocks near Throgg's Neck, and her crew were obliged to abandon her. The sloop yacht Frederick Black went ashore at Rockaway Shoals. Her crew were saved with some difficulty by the Coney Island life saving crew.
Nineteen fishing smacks, with 165 men on board, were out in the track of the storm, and old salts shake their heads when asked as to their chances for returning safely. There were fewer out during each of the two big storms of August, and yet the death roll from these was not small."
Source: DEATH AND DESTRUCTION -- Following in the Wake of the Devastating Storm of Last Week -- Reports Coming In -- Tell of Vessels Wrecked, Attended With Terrible Loss of Life -- The Storm Widespread -- It Raked the Coast, and Going Inland, Made Havoc on the Lakes, Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle [Poughkeepsie, NY], Oct. 16, 1893, Vol. 33, No. 10214, p. 1, col. 4.
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I have written before about other devastating hurricanes and massive storms that have ravaged our little town. See, e.g.:
Wed., Sep. 14, 2016: Northeast Gale with Hurricane Force Winds Hammered the Pelham Region on November 23, 1901.
Tue., Apr. 22, 2014: Another Story of the "Great White Hurricane" that Struck Pelham and Surrounding Regions in 1888.
Thu., Mar. 13, 2014: The Great Blizzard of 1888 in Pelham: 126 Years Ago Yesterday and Today.
Thu., Feb. 20, 2014: Pelham Manor in 1883 and in its Early Years - Recollections of An Early Pelham Manor Resident.
Tue., Feb. 14, 2006: An Account of the Blizzard of 1888 by Pelham Manor Resident Henry W. Taft.
Bell, Blake A., Pelham and The Great Hurricane of 1938, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XV, Issue 29, Jul. 28, 2006, p. 8, col. 1.
Bell, Blake A., The Blizzard of 1888: Pelham in the Midst Of the 'Great White Hurricane', The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 34, Aug. 27, 2004, p. 9, col. 1.