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Waterloo, Indiana Tornado

November 11, 1911

WATERLOO SWEPT BY CYCLONE;
CUTTING SWATH THROUGH THE
BUSINESS SECTION OF TOWN


WATERLOO, Ind., Nov. 12. –Traveling at a terrific speed a cyclone struck this place at 11:05 last evening, practically wiping out the greatest portion of the business section of town and causing at least $50,000 damage to public buildings and residences. Miraculously nobody was killed or seriously injured.

The opera house, in which is located the city hall, two public school rooms ad the fire department was completely demolished at a loss of $17,000.

The postoffice was razed and as soon as possible a fire line was established and the postmaster and his assistant secured the scattered mail which will be removed to a place of safety as soon as dawn.

Fire Whistle Blown.
As the cyclone hit the outskirts of the town the alarm was given and the fire whistle called the populace from residences and stores, and to this is attributed the fact that no lives were lost.

Freight cars on the Lake Shore railroad were turned completely over and one building, containing a family of six was lifted clear of the floor and carried into an adjoining field, leaving the occupants sitting in the living room, with no sidewalls nor roof.

Of Short Duration.
The cyclone was of short duration, passing completely over the city in less than three minutes time. As soon as partial quiet was restored it was found that the telegraph and telephone wires had been blow down and communication with outside points was impossible until a late hour this morning.

Until daylight comes it will be impossible to obtain a definite idea of the damage. The streets are filled with excited and hysterical residents many of whom are homeless. Houses that were not damaged by the terrific storm and one or two churches have been thrown open to those who are compelled to take refuge other than in their own wrecked dwellings.

The opera house, located in the very heart of the city, was completely demolished. First the roof of the building was blown into a hundred different parts, and then the entire structure collapsed. The building contained not only the city hall and fire department, but also two public school rooms. While the damage to this building alone is estimated at $17,000, the valuable records and other furnishings in the building will evidently make a greater total.

The wreckage was not accompanied by fire. Small blazes in one or two sections of the town were quickly quenched by volunteer firemen, and did no damage.

One automobile garage, owned by W H [illegible - could be Lee], was completely destroyed and the building which houses the Waterloo Press was severely damaged. Residences in all parts of the little village are more or less damaged, some of them having turned completely on one side others were lifted bodily and carried several feet. Roofs were torn off [illegible] [illegible] returned, while live stock of all sort, ran wild through the streets of the town adding more confusion to the general chaos.
---------
At 2:30 o’clock this morning the last message received from the stricken city announces that not one person who resides in the town is missing and not one person is more then slightly injured. Those who rushed from their homes as the cyclone struck the city and saw the flying masses of wreckage and the tumbling buildings and wild rush of houses and other live stock through he streets of the village declare that a miracle has been wrought in that no lives were lost.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN 12 Nov 1911

       

MIRACULOUS ESCAPES IN WATERLOO
CYCLONE; LOSS WAS UNDERESTIMATED;
TOWN STREWN WITH STORM’S WRECKAGE


WATERLOO, Ind., Nov. 12. – Waterloo, swept by a disastrous cyclone shortly before 12 o’clock Saturday night, awoke this morning from a veritable nightmare to find itself in the grip of a winter’s blizzard. Suffering to-day was intense, more than a score of families finding it necessary to leave wrecked homes for temporary shelter in the midst of a winter’s day, which came down upon the little city as unexpectedly as the cyclone of a few hours before.

Waterloo people went to bed Saturday night with windows open and fires out. Conditions could not have been calmer and the quiet more complete. Clouds hovered above as the night wore on, with a threatening aspect, and out of them came the cyclone from the southwest, without a moment’s warning. As the tempest, with a velocity of seventy miles an hour, came upon the town it dipped and struck the earth near the Lake Shore depot, in the southwest part of town. From there it followed the ground through the northern section of town, toppling barns, wrecking brick buildings, shattering the business section and unroofing homes where people quietly slept. At the northeast edge of town the cyclone plowed through fields and across farms, for a distance of a mile and a half, taking the roof off a farmhouse where a family of six slept, unharmed. Then the funnel-shape tempest rose into the sky, to vent its rage on the vacant air.

First reports failed to tell the full details and enormity of the disaster. There were many narrow escapes. Nothing less than a miracle saved scores from injury. In instances, everything was blown over families sleeping in their rooms, and after the storm passed there was only the sky above them.

It is conservatively estimated that the total loss will be in the neighborhood of $100,000, the estimate of $50,000 made immediately after the cyclone being proven too small when daylight broke upon the wreckage.

The northern part of Waterloo suffered most heavily. The cyclone cut a swath 400 feet wide through the town, following the north line of the lake Shore right-of-way. To-day there was not a dooryard north of the tracks that was not filled with the scattered wreckage of the cyclone.

Twenty-five houses were unroofed.

The roof was blown from the residence of W. H. Ettinger, the town’s undertaker. The family sought refuge during the night in a neighboring store. Mr. Ettinger was the only man in Waterloo who carried cyclone insurance. He had $700 on his home, and to-morrow there promises to be a rush to the insurance agencies.

In four barns which were overturned there were horses. All of these cam forth unharmed and without a scratch.

A scantling, 2x4, was driven through a window and missed one man by a few inches. Another scantling blown from a church which lay in the path of the tornado lodged in a tree 400 feet away. One sign was blown three squares.

Telegraph and telephone lines for a distance of three miles along the Air Line are down, poles and wires lying in a tangled mass. Communication by wire is demoralized.

Three barns be a tangled mass of splinters, in one pile. Everywhere the wreckage to-day presented a startling scene for the thousands of people who came into town in street cars, trains and buggies to view the storm’s destruction. Picture men were on the ground and people braved the cold to look at the wreckage.

After leaving Waterloo, the storm traveled at a terrific rate, unchecked by its destruction in the town. Fences, corn shocks and trees were scattered everywhere. A mile and a half northeast of town the house of George Hallet, a farmer was in the direct path of the cyclone.

The Hallet family consists of six people and all were sleeping in their home when the storm struck. The residence was picked up and moved fifty feet and badly damaged, but not a member of the family was injured.

Thus wreaking it destructive abilities the cyclone rose into the air to consume its own fury.

In the city, the greatest loss was in the destruction of the opera house a 12-foot brick building, which was reduced to a mass of ruins. Containing the fire department, city hall and two public school rooms, there was a number of people in the structure at the time it began to collapse, and all saved themselves by running into the street. There was grave danger of the ruins taking fire and flames started several times, but were extinguished before they had attained any headway. The building was among the largest in the city and was considered among the stanchest. When the wind stuck it the roof crumpled like a cockle shell and fell in with a crash, the four walls following within a few seconds. It was the most valuable building destroyed by the storm and the loss will be complete, as no cyclone insurance was carried.

Another important building destroyed was a big cement block structure located a few hundred feet southeast of the junction of the two railroads. It was formerly occupied by a cigar factory and of late had been used for storage purposes by William Ettinger. It will be a total loss. Ettinger carried about $700 insurance on his stock.

A restaurant building located near Lake Shore depot, where the storm first struck, was unroofed and the building otherwise badly damaged. Scores of small buildings were either reduced to splinters or literally lifted from the ground and carried varying distances from their original locations.

Reports are coming into town of great damage to farm property in the vicinity of this city.

It is estimated that the wind traveled at the rate of seventy miles an hour. The destruction of property took place within a period of a few minutes and as the wind subsided it was followed by rain and sleet.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN 13 Nov 1911

Transcribed by Loraine Jordan.  Thank you, Loraine!

       

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