Archived Story

Cyclone hit on hot, humid day

Published 10:24am Monday, June 20, 2011

For The Journal

“It had been a hot, humid Sunday, June 22, an almost unbearable day; then, at 4:45 p.m. a cyclone – today we would call it a tornado – touched down in the northwestern part of the city.

It went south along Vine Street until it reached Lincoln Avenue, there it turned southeast toward the Northern Pacific depot and followed Vernon Avenue out of town. The path of the cyclone was an appalling scene of wreckage and devastation. Adding to the damage, the wind was followed by a torrential rain.

The cyclone destroyed 146 homes and damaged another 196. It also destroyed 42 business places. Many lives were lost and many more injured. The damage was estimated at $4.5 million.

Only five percent of the loss was covered by insurance. The largest building destroyed was the Grand Hotel at the corner of Lincoln and Vine. Lake Alice was almost covered with debris.

Martial law was declared in Fergus Falls after the cyclone. No one was allowed on the streets between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. except law officers and the National Guard, and no outsiders could enter the city without a special permit.”

This article is an excerpt from the radio docudrama on the Fergus Falls cyclone of 1919, written by Lance Johnson, Dilworth, N.D.

For additional information on the events, buildings, people and places of Otter Tail County contact the Otter Tail County Historical Society, 1110 W. Lincoln Ave., Fergus Falls or on the web at General admission to the historical society is $4/adults, $1/ages 5-11. Members and children 4 and under are free. Large group tours are welcome. Guided tours can be arranged in advance.

Meeting space is available. Museum hours June through August: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

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