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Twisted
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2020-06-02

            The United States has more tornados than any other place in the world.  Compared to other areas of the United States, they are less frequent in the Northeast. 

The tornado left a zig-zag trail across the borough was

believed to have started near the burned-out remains of

the Perkiomen Trunk and Bag Company, on Pottstown

Avenue and the railroad tracks.

When one touches down in our area it is news, especially if it happened while people were still in the midst of trying to climb back from the Great Depression, and if the twister had its beginning in the middle of Pennsburg.

            People across the country were still reeling from the death and destruction caused by tornados on back-to-back days in April of 1936 that claimed more than 400 lives in Tupelo, Mississippi and Gainsville, Ga., injured thousands more and caused billions of dollars in damage.

            It was a hurt that everyone felt, yet the possibility of a tornado in our neighborhood just didn't seem possible.

            A severe thunderstorm had just passed through the area around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 18, 1936.  Witnesses reported that, near the end of the storm, a "freakish wind of tremendous proportions" cut a narrow swath from west to east across the borough.

            Believed to have started near the burned-out remains of the Perkiomen Trunk and Bag Company, on Pottstown Avenue and the railroad tracks, it left a zig-zag trail

Among the businesses damaged in Pennsburg's 500

block of Main Street was the Lehigh Valley oil station

where the elaborate lattice fence was ripped from the

rear of the building and demolished.

across the borough and into Upper Hanover Township for a couple of miles.

            According to a newspaper account, the twister left a costly reminder behind it.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt but it did leave a wake of damage to homes and farm buildings.  The path of disturbance was narrow and at some points was only several yards in width.

            It formed quickly and traveled fast.  Many residents were unaware of the unwelcome visitor.  But from up to a half-mile away they heard the rush of the wind and the clatter of debris. Elsewhere in the area, a dead-calm was experienced as the twister sped through.

            Witnesses reported that the twister "manifested itself" in the factory remains and took down one of the remaining brick walls before tearing a large limb off a nearby tree and tossing it 200 yards into the truck patch of Henry Schwenk on Dotts Street.

            Schwenk's truck patch must have been a good dropping-off point for debris because after the twister left the factory, it damaged the Dotts St. home of Newston Kulp and deposited that debris into the truck patch as well.  The house next to Kulp had a 7' x 8' hole torn into the slate roof and the steps on the rear porch were ripped off and

The Schaeffer farm in Upper Hanover Township sus- 

tained the most damage having a silo at the west end

of the barn was reduced to kindling and the end of the

barn roof was torn off.  A chicken house containing

about 200 chickens was lifted off its foundation, spun 

completely around and dropped back to earth a few

feet from where it originally stood.

carried to a nearby field.

            The twister moved east towards Main Street. It ripped slates off the home of Hiram Young and hurled them through the window of the residence next door.  The Lehigh Valley oil station had the lattice ripped from the rear of the building and demolished.

            Awnings, shutters, and water spouting were ripped from other buildings along the west side of the 500 block of Main Street and deposited on the east side.

            In the 600 block, a brick chimney was blown over and crashed through the roof of the Kline home causing damage to two floors.

            Large trees along the twister's path were uprooted and laid out in no special pattern with many coming to rest on top of each other.

            The twister quickly left the borough and sped into Upper Hanover Township.  There it caused heavy damage at the Schaeffer farm. 

            According to the Town and Country, the silo at the west end of the barn was reduced to kindling wood and the end of the barn roof was torn off.  Roof shingles and pieces of the building were hurled 200 feet towards the house, breaking a window on the second floor and allowing debris into the bedroom.

            A chicken house containing about 200 chickens was lifted off its foundation, spun completely around and dropped back to earth a few feet from where it originally stood.  A large wooden wagon was driven several hundred feet into a fence.

            Just past the Schaeffer farm, a wagon shed was demolished and more than 50 trees were uprooted in the orchard of John Stone.  At the nearby farm of Harry Frye, a shed containing several young turkeys was overturned.  A tin roof was torn from a building on the C. M. Young farm and the roof on the barn of H. Daily was slightly damaged.

            The damage diminished as the twister made its way to Klineville (Kleinville) in Upper Hanover Township, traveling a distance of about two miles before dissipating.

            It was a short, yet fearful, reminder that even the unusual can happen anywhere.

            And usually at the worst time. 

 


 

 

 

 

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