Violent storms still sweep through sussex county – new jersey herald – electricity labs high school

On May 15, as the Herald reported, "A violent, windy rainstorm that caused massive power outages across the region left a trail of downed power lines, blocked roads and toppled utility poles in its wake." Unfortunately, as a result of the downed power lines, the storm left many residents without electrical power.

In July 1920, a rainstorm hit Sussex County inflicting heavy damage, but nothing was reported about downed power lines or the loss of electrical power. What the Herald did report, however, was the loss of cows, farm buildings, an ice house and part of a mill dam, bridges swept away, and serious damage to roads, leaving many of them impassable. The storm also claimed a heavy loss of crops and family gardens.

One Herald reporter explained that two electrical showers passed over a portion of Sussex County with the dark clouds coming out of the east and the west, and when they met, vivid lightning and heavy thunder accompanied a heavy downpour of rain. One reporter described the lightning: "The flashes of lightning were so brilliant it looked as though a hundred high-power search lights had been turned on the town."

Sussex County was still an agricultural community in 1920, and several farmers lost their cows as a result of the two storms. Daniel Howell, whose farm was located near Mulford’s Station, had 10 cows that took shelter under an apple tree. All 10 cows were struck by lightning and killed. Lightning also killed eight cows belonging to Fred Hibler, of Springdale. Lightning also killed six cows belonging to Jacob M. Demarest, on his Lake Grinnell farm, when the cows were in the pasture field near a tree that was struck. Clark Westbrook, of Stillwater, lost seven cows that were struck by lightning, while Clarence Southard and Otto Weizel, also of Stillwater, each lost two cows.

Farm buildings also suffered damage, for it was reported that "in the Germany Flats district the shower was very severe; and as a result, the house of the late Charles Cox, occupied by Richard Rose, was struck by lightning. Although the house was damaged, it was not fired, the bolt passing off through a sewer pipe to the horse barn. The building was set on fire and completely destroyed. By hard work the neighbors assembled succeeded in saving the large barn, filled with crops, nearby."

Trees were also uprooted during the double storm. "A number of medium sized trees in the Sparta Glen were uprooted and in one instance carried by the current down almost to the Brookside House. The water system that supplies eight or nine families in Glenair Park with water from the Glen was out of commission until the early part of this week." The article continued to note: "Lower down, a part of the dam that diverts the stream into the raceway to the grist mill was torn away, the huge boulders being rolled down stream as though they were but pebbles. The three footbridges over the Wallkill, on the depot road, were all carried down stream and the cellars in that part of the town were flooded.

"Some years ago, Kay’s Hill, on Main Street, was coated with crushed stone and covered with gravel. Today the crushed stone is nearly all that is left of that part of the roadway while the sidewalk on that hill is almost impassable after night fall, pockets and gullies being washed out at intervals along the entire walk down the hillside."

It was also reported that "Clarence C. Rice, of High Falls, suffered considerably from the effects of the storm. An icehouse, which was situated near a dam on his property, was completely demolished and washed down stream by the tearing out of the dam. The icehouse had been well-filled last winter, and ice sailed down to the lake.

"At Lafayette, the Paulins Kill became a wild raging stream. The banks were soon flooded, and the adjoining meadows inundated, forming a great lake, and the footbridges, dams and small outhouses were carried away. On the flats, the highway was covered with water to a depth of 12 or 16 inches, and the autos had to make a detour to reach or leaving the village."

In at least one section of the county, the railroad tracks were submerged and trains were delayed. One of these places was the bog meadow and the big spring and Warbasse, where the railroad track was submerged in a number of places and trains were delayed.

In Newton, much damage and flooding occurred with many gardens being washed away. Presumably, the most dramatic incident to occur as a result of the storm was at Water Street. "At the foot of Water Street, a junction was formed with the great body of water coming from the Snook meadows, which was forced around into the street by the broad concrete building. As the water poured into the big brook, its banks were soon overflowed, flooding the meadows. The lot of the electric light building, occupied by the Howell Bros. as a garage, was flooded to the depth of four feet. So swift was the current of water within the building that the eight or 10 automobiles stored in the building were kept constantly moving about on the floor. Finally, there came a sudden flow of water, as though flood gates had been opened, and a big seven-passenger car, weighing 3,600 pounds, standing in the center of the garage, was driven with great force in the rear of the building, tearing away the whole end, and turned turtle as it landed on the bridge across the stream on East Clinton Street. With the overflow of water in the brook, the bridge, with the automobile, finally collapsed in the stream. The bridge is about 25 feet long and covered with about six inches of concrete. The car was removed from the stream Sunday morning and found to be badly wrecked."

Damage was also reported in the Flatbrookville and Millbrook area. Reports indicated that "roads are badly washed out, as are the cornfield and gardens. The Flatbrook was more than bank full. About 12 feet of Haney’s dam was torn out. At Millbrook, the mill dam all went out and the stream, swelled to a young flood, burst into the roadway, washing it out to a depth from one to four or five feet for nearly a mile. About half that distance, what was the public road is now the main current of the stream. Whole gardens were washed away and at other places gardens and lawns are piled high with stones and sand. It is thought by some that the damage to the road is beyond repair."

Reportedly, Fredon Township suffered the worst in road damage. It was reported that "of all the municipalities of the county, the township of Fredon undoubtedly suffered the most severely. Until the present writing, travel has not been restored on the road leading from Newton to the township hall in the Village of Fredon proper. The greatest damage was inflicted on the road passing the Morris mill at Fredon in the direction of Swartswood. Here the rising torrents tore a hole in the highway that would easily accommodate the Newton Court House, with room plenty to spare. It is a miniature Grand Canyon right in Fredon Township."

While it’s true that the July 1920 storm did not result in violent winds that caused massive power outages across the region leaving a trail of downed power lines and toppled utility poles in its wake, it did result in numerous cows struck by lightning, serious flooding with crops and vegetable gardens wiped out. Roads, bridges and sidewalks were swept away, mill dams were destroyed and at least one horse barn was destroyed by fire.