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The 1879 History of Jones County Iowa was transcribed by [an error occurred while processing this directive].

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TORNADO AT MONTICELLO
The people of Monticello will have occasion to date back to Tuesday, October 8, 1878, for the next two generations at the least. It was general election day for the State, county and township officers, and, just as the town clock in the schoolhouse tower indicated 5:30 in the afternoon, a destructive tornado struck the southwestern portion of the town, and, passing off in a northeasterly direction, totally destroyed ten dwelling-houses, two churches, nine barns and stables and one icehouse, and more or less damaging forty-two other buildings. The day opened with the temperature 55° at 7 A.M., nimbus clouds and a fresh breeze from the south, with a little sprinkling of rain at 10 A.M., and also again at noon. The temperature at noon was 73°, and there were nimbus clouds and a gentle breeze from the east. The temperature remained at 73° up to and including the time of the tornado. The wind came from the east until the arrival of a stronger current of air from the southwest, when the weather-vane backed around, via the north, to the southwest. For an hour previous to the arrival of the storm, a huge bank of nimbus clouds was seen piled up in the west and southwest, with occasional vivid flashes of lightning, accompanied with loud peals of thunder; and, when this ocean of nimbus clouds approached from the southwest, a light strip appeared at the horizon, and widened as the storm made headway in its course. The friction of the wind rolled up the underside of the black clouds, and they had very much the appearance of the waves of the ocean coming in from sea before a heavy gale of wind.
The first damage done was the total destruction of E. R. Murdock's dwell-house, three miles west and one mile south of Monticello, in Castle Grove Township. Then, following a line northeasterly, it destroyed the dwelling-house of Mr. Brunthaver, in this township, and damaging the school building in District No. 3. Then, passing through the south portion of town, crossing Kitty Creek at Skelly's Ford, it totally destroyed James Sloan's dwelling, in Section 23, two miles east of town Then, crossing the Maquoketa River, it destroyed the German Church in Richland Township, Section 19, four miles northeast of town. The storm was one-fourth of a mile in width, and lasted less than a minute in any one place, and traveled the whole course of eight or ten miles in a few moments. In the center of the track of the storm the ruins were mostly left in a northeasterly direction, but on either side of the center of the track the debris is left at every point of the compass. A little hail and rain fell a few moments before and during the work of the destruction. In all, it measured less than a quarter of an inch-not enough to wet through the plastering of the houses that lost the roofs. During the whole of the storm, there was a loud, roaring noise, like the roar of the approaching of a thousand trains of cars, or the noise of the ocean while being lashed by a furious storm.
The signal service can never give warning of these sudden freaks of the wind, no matter how perfect it may yet become in its other weather prognostications. Their causes are altogether local and altogether unexpected in their appearance. They are copies, in miniature, of the tropical cyclones, and are governed, in their smaller sphere, by the same laws. Experts now describe all storms as rotary, and caused by the meeting of opposing currents of air of different temperatures, having a local motion around a constantly advancing center. North of the equator, this motion is almost universally from right to left. In the southern hemisphere the rule is reversed. Ninety per cent of the fifty tornados noted in the United States during eighty years have exhibited the same characteristics—a general eastward course, with a greater or less deflection to the north. It follows that a person who sees a tornado approaching from the west may escape by running southward, but to run northward is, in all probability, to run into its very vortex. The singular weather, with its thick atmosphere, frequent rains and excess of electrical force, is just the weather which tempts the elements into frequent freaks of this kind. How all signs may fail, thus receives another illustration; because the frequency of these violent storms is believed to depend upon, or, rather, to coincide with, the greater or less number of spots on the sun, of which there are fewer this year than usual.
The northwest has been the prevailing wind, its coming from that direction for 94 days, against 77 days last year. It was clear on 63 days, cloudy on 91 days, foggy on 15 days, and hazy on 85 days. It thundered and lightened on 52 days. Frost on 138 days during the year.
Below is given the amount of snow and rain, and the number of rainy and snowy days during the winter of 1877–78, and a comparison with the past three winters:


 

Rain

R. D.

Snow

S. D.
November, 18773.68511.626
December, 18772.6760.251
January, 18780.4812.103
Total8.341316.3213
1876—7715.771361.6828
1875—7615.983229.5317
1874—7512.581149.0536

The following table shows the monthly maximum, minimum and mean temperature, temperature of well-water, number of days with frost, clear and cloudy, for each month during the year 1879:


1879

Max

Min

Mean

Temp of Well Water

No. of Days of Frost

No. of Days Clear

No. of Days Cloudy
Jan45-1815.75031127
Feb47-1022.0492888
Mar74536.0502087
Apr842253.2504175
May883762.7502610
Jun905068.950097
Jul936176.7510125
Aug925472.0500115
Sep823758.8505102
Oct852258.0509152
Nov701236.750191011
Dec……………………………………
Annual……………………………………

The following table shows the mean direction of the wind. The figures show the number of times, each month, the wind prevailed in each of the eight cardinal points for the year 1879:


1877

N

NE

E

SE

S

SW

W

NW

Calm
January320544490
February2208212110
March3029205100
April621742170
May1221063340
June323582340
July050419129
August160665331
September120553860
October1006115251
November1107424110
December………………………………………………
Annual………………………………………………
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