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Weather history: A tornado struck Mt. Jackson on this date in weather history

The suspected path of the 1925 tornado
The suspected path of the 1925 tornado(WHSV)
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 11:22 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 2, 2020 at 2:41 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — 95 years ago, on July 2 a tornado struck Mount Jackson.

Official tornado records didn’t start until 1950. Often times, wind damage was thought to be from a tornado when it was a straight line or down bursting winds (as it still is often mistaken for today).

When you look at older tornado reports, reviewing newspapers or eye witness reports helps to get a sense of what was seen of the damage that was created. Looking at several newspaper reports and reading through the damage, the WHSV weather team doesn’t deny that this was likely a tornado.

In fact, it could have been a rather strong tornado. High temperatures on July 2, 1925 were in the low to mid-80s. At 2:30 p.m., the storm hit.

The tornado ripped off many roofs — including the roof of the Cedar Grove Church of the Brethren and part of the roof at the National Bank building. The force of the winds crushed about a half dozen silos and damaged hundreds of trees. Orchards and fields of corn and wheat were ripped to shreds.

Headline from the Staunton Newsleader on July 3, 1925
Headline from the Staunton Newsleader on July 3, 1925(The Staunton Newsleader)

The Staunton Newsleader reports that the storm caved in one wall of the new Mount Jackson high school that was in the process of being built.

The newspaper also states 18 construction workers were in a construction shack at the new high school, which at the time was located where the Mount Jackson Fire Department is today. According to the Staunton Newsleader, “the 18 of them grabbed the beams and held it down by main force” when the tornado struck the building they were in. It’s reported that their cars were tossed down an embankment.

The newspaper also reported that the Southern Railway train was forced to stop several times due to the many trees that fell over the train tracks from the tornado.

Virgil Davis was a witness and was driving on Route 11/Valley Pike at the time of the storm. He quickly took shelter in the historic Lee Long House at Meems Bottom. Davis said that the wind roared so loud that he didn’t even hear that the roof had blown off.

Just two days later on July 4, 1925, another vicious storm hit Harrisonburg hard. Although it wasn’t a tornado, hail was reported as large as hen eggs, which is in the 1″-2″ range. That large size is not very common in the Shenandoah Valley.

The newspaper also reported a gentleman, Will H. Chandlee of Harrisonburg, got so curious that he decided to taste the hailstones — and reported that they tasted salty. Sometimes you never know what you’ll find looking through old newspaper articles.

Damage estimate reported in the Daily News Record, July 6, 1925
Damage estimate reported in the Daily News Record, July 6, 1925(Daily News Record)

According to the insurance companies, damage was estimated at about $150,000, which would equal about $2 million today.

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact path, but according to the damage reports, the WHSV weather team predicts that the tornado would have traveled almost south to north along Route 11, and estimates that its path would have been at least three miles.

Copyright 2020 WHSV. All rights reserved.

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