Reading Susan’s post last week about the “Welcome to Elmira” sign on West Church Street reminded me that we also had a welcome sign on West Water Street up until 2012. On July 26 of that year, a tornado swept through Elmira, and that welcome sign was one of the casualties.
|Google Street View of the Welcome to Elmira sign on |
East Water Street near Kennedy Valve from May 2012
A terrible hurricane struck Elmira, N.Y., at 4:30 p.m. accompanied by a severe storm of rain. A vast amount of damage was done in about two minutes, the duration of the storm. Entire roofs, with their heavy timbers, were blown hundreds of feet; the Rathbun house was unroofed, and the spire of Hedding Methodist Church was blown across the street into a yard. About two tons of bricks were deposited in the organ of the First Presbyterian Church. Several brick buildings had holes blown clear through them. The storm was preceded by an earthquake.
While the publication called it a “hurricane,” a contemporaneous newspaper report called it a “cyclone,” and it is clear from the description that it was a tornado.
Jumping forward 131 years, Elmira was once again struck by a tornado. The twister touched down at Harris Hill Manor off Route 352 just before 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 26, 2012. It traveled east through West Elmira then into the city, crossing the Clemens Center Parkway near Water Street and continuing to Jerusalem Hill. The EF-1 tornado with 105-110 mph winds was on the ground for nearly nine miles, and left $10 million of destruction in its wake. It knocked out power to about 24,000 homes and businesses, dropped trees on building and vehicles, and blew off the roof over the ladies room at Dunn Field, but there were, surprisingly, no injuries reported.
|Aerial view of damage in an Elmira-area neighborhood from
the 2012 |
tornado, Star-Gazette, July 28, 2012, photo by David Wivell
|Photo of tornado damage in Baldwin, Star-Gazette, September 4, 2014|
|Path of the 1983 tornado, Star-Gazette, May 4, 1983|
Do you have any stories to tell about local tornadoes? Share them here in the comments, and we’ll add them to the museum’s archive!