National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


Wilkes-Barre Tornado


Start: First indication of the start of the tornado was with a tree down.
1. Estimate F0. "A brisk gust of wind passed through Nanticoke and the dust and light articles rose in a whirlwind, while a large maple tree was blown down at the east end of the Nanticoke Bridge." Notes by Professor Thomas Santee, 1890.

2. Estimated F0-F1. "...following the bank of the river which is in a direction nearly east, for a short distance the trees are marked by the characteristic twisting off of branches and further on the field was strewn with light debris consisting of bark of trees and small bits of wood which had been carried by the storm. "

"Then for about a mile there is no distinct trace of the storm but from Butzbach's Landing, the effects become clearer, abundant and characteristic, leading past the north side of the cemetery at Hanover Green..."

3. Estimated F0-F1.

4. Estimated F1. It veered north and entered South Wilkes-Barre on the line of the D&H RR with a track about 100 yards wide at about 5:30 pm.

Striking Main Street neat its southern extremity, the storm swept northward to Wood Street, where it widened and struck Franklin street and the lower end of Dana Place. From "History of Luzerne County" edited by Henry C. Bradsby

Posted by Stu Beitler at "", Wilkes-Barre Tornado, August 1890, "Another Deadly Cyclone"

Quotes a dispatch dated August 19, 1890

  • ...At 5 o'clock this afternoon the most terrible cyclone that was ever experienced in this locality struck the city. It came up the river, and the suddeness of its coming was one of its most awful features...
  • ...hundreds of houses were unroofed, partially blown over and completely demolished ...
  • ...Passenger trains and locomotives at the depot were blown over...
  • ...Brick dwellings were unroofed and the upper stories torn away and some were leveled to the ground...
5. Estimated F2. Here the storm veered to the north and entered South Wilkes-Barre on the line of the D. & H. R.R. to Franklin Street and covering about three hundred yards in width. Trees, fences and buildings were wrecked between Main and Franklin from Wood to Academy Streets.

6. Estimated F3. At Academy Street, the storm turned to the east, crossing to the German Catholic Church on Washington Street, and onward to the Lehigh Valley Depot where it again turned north along the railroads to Five Points... From Notes by Prof. Thomas Santee

At Academy street, it turned to the east and from here to Ross street the damage was confined principally to Main and Cinderella streets. At Ross street the storm turned again eastward and swept out Hazle and Ross streets to Washington and Canal, where it struck the Pennsylvania Railroad company's roundhouse and the Hazard Wire Rope works, and then turned northward up Washington, Fell and Canal streets.

From Stu Beitler's Post

  • Four men are known to have been killed at the Hazard Wire Rope Works.
  • A huge stack at the Kytle Planning Mill fell killing a man and two horses.
  • A girl was killed by a building falling on South Main street.
  • Two men suffered death by the falling of a portion of Stegmaier's Brewery.
  • Another man died in the demolition of S.S. Brown's brick business on Market Street.

7. At Northampton street the storm turned to the east and swept outNorthampton to the Central Railroad of New Jersey. From here to North Street the buildings on Canal street and along the railroads suffered most severely.

  • 16 people killed in the city.
  • 15 more seriously injured.
  • 35 more with slight injuries.
  • 260 buildings, residences, stores, school houses, churches, factories, public and railroad buildings were damaged with some totally destroyed.
  • Estimated damage was $240,000 (1890 money).

Given inflation, this damage cost would be equal to approximately $6 million in 2012. However, the actual cost of rebuilding could be much greater than this.

8. End of severe damage in Wilkes-Barre. At North Street it again turned wastward up Bowman, Scott and Kidder streets to Five Points, where it left the city.

9. Tornado leaves Wilkes-Barre.

10. "After leaving Wilkes-Barre the storm did no serious damage as its track was through a wooded region. Touching at Mountain Park it crossed Laurel Run ... " Notes by Santee.

End: After leaving Wilkes-Barre the storm did no serious damage as its track was through a wooded region. Touching at Mountain Park it crossed Laurel Run and over the north end of Indian Hill across John P. Lawler's farm and on to the northern side of Bald Mountain where it became diffused and left no distinct marks of its course.