Near Mason City, IL Tornado And Electrical Storms, June 1871

A SINGULAR PHENOMENON.

A MOVING COLUMN OF CLOUD IN ILLINOIS -- DEVASTATION IN ITS LONG BUT NARROW PATH -- ELECTRIC FLASHES VISIBLE IN THE COLUMN.

Chicago, June 5. -- A cyclone passed near Mason City, Ill., last Friday morning. An inky-hued cloud or smoke like column was observed gathering near the earth's surface on an open prairie six miles from that place, and from this column soon shot out three narrower and spire-like cloud columns which continued to ascend rapidly until they reached and seemed to attach themselves to a passing cloud above. This frightful apparition moved slowly toward Mason City, but finally changed its course, much to the relief of the people of that place. A mile from its track an odor much like that of burning sulphur was inhaled by several persons. A gentleman who stood at 100 yards from the cyclone when it passed says that small flashes of electricity were constantly visible in the storm column passing from the earth to the clouds above, and that rapid popping, crackling reports were heard, reminding him most forcibly of an infantry regiment in battle firing their musketry as fast as possible. The pathway of the cyclone was nearly three miles in length and from twenty to eighty feet in width, and in that pathway not a spear of grass, not a stalk of corn or wheat, not a shrub, not a particle of vegetation, was left alive. For some distance the earth was literally plowed up to the depth of six inches. The column of whirling air must have been intensely hot, as every green thing in its path was dried to a crisp. Another feature of the cyclone was that while its rotary motion must have been of inconceivably great velocity, its progressive motion was not above the rate of six miles an hour. The outlines of its pathway were so well defined that five feet from the outer line of total destruction of vegetation of every kind not a vestige of its effects could be seen. Fortunately no house stood in the tornado's way.

The New York Times New York 1871-06-06