May 15, 1909
Sweeping across the country just east of Kansas City, a tornado tore down many buildings and injured more than twenty persons about 6 o'clock last night. The greatest damage was done in the neighborhood of Mount Washington and Fairmount park. The storm originated near the intersection of the Blue Ridge road and Fifteenth street, and crossed the country to the northeast.
Little damage was done by the tornado until it reached the street car line at Mount Washington, and from there until it reached the Missouri river it left only wreckage in its path. It moved some houses from the foundations, demolished others, and razed trees and telegraph poles. Many persons were injured by flying timbers. Several of the injured are not expected to live, and quite a number not bruised suffered from nervous shock.
Wreckage was blown high in the air, and witnesses say that roofs were seen at an altitude of 200 feet. Timbers carried onto the street car and railroad tracks delayed transportation, and made it dangerous for traveling. Flying timbers threatened injury to all those who braved the storm to go the the assistance of the unfortunates whose homes were demolished. Immediately after the force of the tornado had passed, men and women gathered to the aid of those needing it and surgeons were sent for from Independence.
Many miraculous escapes were recorded and the storm played havoc with everything in its path. Trees several feet in diameter were uprooted and then broken off, while telephone and telegraph wires and poles were blown down which tended to make the work of rescue the harder. As fast as the injured persons were found friends and neighbors carried them to their homes and summoned medical aid.
The Air Line train, which is due to leave Independence at 5:45, was directly in the path of the tornado, and at Mount Washington narrowly escaped being wrecked. A roof whirling in the air 200 feet high passed over the rear coach, and the end of the roof tore a hole in the top of the car. A timber was driven into the roof of the coach, and was sticking there when the train pulled out.
The concrete and steel bridge of the Chicago & Alton crossing the electric line leading to Fairmount park was moved four inches from its foundation. Residences on the hill were blown down and the wreckage strewn along the Chicago & Alton and Missouri Pacific tracks.
The storm struck the ground at various places, and where it did any damage its path was estimated to be about 150 feet wide. Many persons saw its approach and attempted to avoid it by running across the country or retiring to the cellars of their homes. One woman who ran into a barn was left unconscious on the ground, while the barn was whipped off the ground and carried away. What became of it was not known last night.
Those who noticed the storm as it approached their neighborhood, said that it seemed to gather velocity and destructiveness as it neared Mount Washington. The cloud, looking like a reddish dust cloud, twisted and whirled with rapidity. It would travel high in the air and then swoop down to earth, smashing and damaging everything it struck.
Throughout and preceding the tornado there was a heavy rainfall. Shortly after the crest of the storm had passed the wind swept territory, the work of rescue was well under way. Later the rain continued, and delayed the recovery of property which had been blown away.
The low hanging cloud, as it swept around Mount Washington cemetery, took on a funnel like shape when it neared the Metropolitan tracks. The home of George Ogan at 915 Greenwood avenue was the first in the path of the storm. Mr. and Mrs. Ogan, with their daughter, Mrs. J. Jenkins, were in the house, which was lifted from its foundation. After it passed the Ogan home the storm redoubled its fury.
John Archer, a Metropolitan motorman, who was working on a new house near the street car tracks, was struck by a flying timber. Dr. Gilmore, who treated him, found that he was suffering from a severe scalp wound.
At the barn of A. J. Ream not enough timbers were left to show that it ever existed. Mr. Ream's large house, fifty feet to the east, was not damaged. Across the street car spur to Fairmount park, Orli Can's home was blown to pieces. No one was at home.
Next to the Cain home was a new building being erected by C. L. Green, an insurance man, who is in Cleveland, O., at the present time. In the rear was a small cottage in which the family lived. When the storm struck Mrs. Greer and the two sons attempted to reach the cellar. The mother was not injured, but the boys were caught by the house as it ripped from the foundation. A. J. Ream rescued the boys from under the wreckage.
Adjoining the Greer home was the residence of Will McCay, a decorator for Emery, Bird, Thayer Dry Goods Company. Mrs. McKay and her 8 year old daughter, Grace, were in the dining room. The roof was carried fifty feet away. Both were hurt.
Next in its path the storm destroyed two large residences belonging to H. D. Jett, a commission man. Mrs. Jett and three children were in the smaller of the two houses. The building was completely destroyed. None of the four were injured.
At the southwest corner of Independence and Overton avenues the storm did its worst. The Christian church, a building erected four years ago, was wrecked beyond recognition. Not a wall was left standing. Had the windstorm struck two hours later, the building would have been occupied, as revival services are held every night.
J. S. DeBernardi's home, directly south of the church, was shifted from its foundation, and Forest, his 10-year-old son, was slightly injured. Charles F. Miller's residence, fifty feet to the west, was shifted from the foundation, but no one was injured, though the family were at home.
Mr. and Mrs. J. S. DeBernardi, the parents of J. S. DeBernardi, lived directly across Overton avenue from the Christian church. The five room cottage was literally blown away, and Mrs. DeBernardi was dangerously injured. Her left arm was broken and she was later taken to Independence for treatment. A new house belonging to J. S. DeBernardi, fifty feet away, was also blown away.
In its course, the storm next struck the home of W. B. Rich. The house was shifted form its foundation. Steele Byrd's new residence was also shifted from its foundation. The Kefferly home, adjoining the Rich's, had its roof blown away.
Fortunately no one was at home when the storm struck the home of J. Peak, the proprietor of the Fairmount Lumber Company. The house was turned completely over and deposited upside down in the cellar. A new residence belonging to G. R. Baker was next, and was totally destroyed. No one was living in the building.
The storm then jumped the deep ravine between Mount Washington and Fairmount addition. John Robinson's cottage was the first struck and was completely demolished. Mrs. Robinson and her 1-year-old daughter were dangerously injured. J. W. Ferguson's cottage was next destroyed. Mrs. Ferguson was injured, but the two children were not touched.
Fred McGrath's home, directly north, was also destroyed, and Mrs. McGrath was dangerously injured. Directly north of the McGrath home Mr. and Mrs. John Reed were living in a tent. Mr. Reed was not at home, and when Mrs. Reed saw the cloud she started to run. Finding that it would be impossible to get away, she seized a piece of fence post and managed to cling to it until the wind was over. Her arms were badly lacerated.
A block north the two-story residence of Alexander Harness was demolished. Mrs. Harness received several scratches. A new dwelling across the street in the course of construction was demolished. The one-room home of James Patterson, a laborer, was blown away. Patterson escaped with slight injuries.
From Patterson's home the tornado lifted and no further damage was reported. Sugar Creek, directly in line with the tornado, only experienced a strong wind.