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1165 August
'this accursed horse'

"There was a great tempest in the province of York ... many people saw the old enemy taking the lead in that tempest: he was in the form of a black horse of large size, and always kept hurrying towards the sea, where he was followed by thunder and lightning, and fearful noises and destructive hail. The footprints of this accursed horse were of a very enormous size, especially on the hill near the town of Scardeburch, from which he gave a leap into the sea; and here for a whole year afterwards, there were plainly visible, the imprint of each foot being deeply graven in the earth. The same tempest destroyed a mill on the River Severn, with its inhabitants, with the exception of a single monk..." (Chronicle of Melrose)

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1233 June
'Two huge dragons'

"About the same time, to wit, in June, in the south parts of England near to the sea coast, two huge dragons appeared fighting in the air, and after a long fight the one overcame the other, and followed him, fleeing into the depths of the sea, and so they were seen no more." (Holinshed)


1585 September 25
'cruell tempeste'

Hay in Herefordshire: "...there appeared a most wonderfull and dreadfull sight of two great cloudes, the one being black, which arising issued from the North, the other being white, came from the South part, which meeting together seemed to rend the Skie with their ratling ... was seen flying an innumerable companie of black Crowes ... and not long before the vanishing of these cloudes was heard so rare and horrible roaring ... the cryes of beares and lyons: yea and that so terrible that it was rather judged to have been the skritching of some malevolent hellish and furious fiends: these supposed Crowes were of divers credible persons visibly seen to rent and tear whole houses, barnes and stables, ye and to pull out whole and huge trees by the rootes ... yea and a most dreadful sight some of the rafters and pieces thereof were carried up in the aire, and after that never sithens seene..." (Walter Davies, Journal of Meteorology, 7, 70, 1982)


1661 May 24
‘the form of two May-poles’

Kensworth in Hertfordshire: “…a very dreadful and strange noise in the Air…after this frightful noise there arose a very strong and tempestuous wind, & with that a black dark Cloud with a great smoak appeared, and above the Cloud and smoak they beheld very clearly the form of two May-poles, the one of a dark black, and the other of a whitish colour…The wind was so violent that it took up stones in great abundance…and threw them up to a very great hight into the Air…” (Mirabilis Annus, 1661)


1761 May 4
'a noise like constant thunder'

"...a most violent whirlwind of that kind commonly known by the name of Typhones, passed down Ashley river, and fell upon the shipping in Rebellion road, with incredible violence. This terrible phaenomenon plough'd Ashley river to the bottom, and laid the channel bare. It made a noise like constant thunder; its diameter was judged to be about 300 fathoms, and its height 35 degrees ... There were 45 sail of ships in the road, five of which were sunk, and His Majesty's ship the Dolphin, with 11 others, lost their masts, &c. This tremendous column was first seen about noon, upwards of 50 miles W. by S. of Charles-Town (South Carolina,) and destroyed in its course houses, plantations, men, and cattle. In several parts every tree and shrub was torn up; great quantities of branches and limbs of trees were seen furiously driven about, and agitated in the body of the column as it passed along." (Gentleman's Magazine, July 1761)


1772 April 12
'a whirlwind passed'

"A whirlwind passed from the N.E. (at Teawa, Abyssinia) which seemed high in the atmosphere ... at the part next the earth it was in the shape of a funnel; and at its broadest part, where it whirled the dust, it might be about seven or nine feet thick, and not above half a foot where it touched the ground. It passed with a great noise along the plain, though slowly, and I suppose a quarter of a mile in eight minutes, frequently growing larger and smaller in the part near the ground, and increasing its force and velocity in whirling. When the white cloud above dispersed, it ceased immediately. The upper part was not dust, but cloud. Kites passing through the cloudy part did not seem affected, though it overthrew houses and my tent as it passed, and violently moved the earth and every shrub within its vortex." (Gentleman's Magazine, 1809)


1796 July
'It was a fearful sight'

Gulf of Finland, between Kronstadt and Lubek: "In the north-west I saw a mass of clouds, blue-black in colour, and immediately afterwards two terrifying cones. The cones turned into columns of water and one of these monsters advanced towards us. It was a fearful sight. The drops, of which the cylinder consisted, did not fall vertically but seemed to flow down with a screw-like motion only to wind upwards again. Its base seemed to rest in a hollow bowl at the edge of which the sea boiled furiously. The noise was deafening. However, the monster roared harmlessly above and past us and only splashed us with a few cherry-sized raindrops, leaving behind a smell of sulphur and saltpetre." (Prof. C.H.Wolke; D.V.Nalivkin)


1800 May 4
'the sound of a mighty wind'

(Morton, near Bourne, Lincolnshire). "My well-disposed neighbours were already assembled in the church, for the purpose of paying their weekly adorations to the Supreme Being. Alarmed at the approaching darkness, and at the sound of a mighty wind, some ran into the porch, others into the church-yard, to see the approaching storm. While thus assembled, our attention was suddenly arrested by a vast column of smoke, which seemed to arise from the ground, about a Southern mile from the place where we stood ... With several others I immediately ascended the steeple; but here description must for ever fall short; no mind can comprehend, no tongue can tell, no pen can represent the scene now exhibited to our astonished sight. I was just in time to have a better view of the phaenomenon which alarmed us below; nor do I hesitate in believing, it proceeded from the sudden explosion of a large fire-ball, as the smoke was far more transparent, and ascended in a manner very different from what terrestrial matter is accustomed to emit ... The clouds now vaulted over one another in confused impetuousity ... The edifice rocked, the wind roared, the thunder pealed, the lightning went abroad, and Nature seemed struggling for her very existence." (Sam. Hopkinson, Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 70, pp. 474-6)


1851 November or December
‘Five hundred persons destroyed by a waterspout’

“…a most awful occurrence at the island of Sicily, which had been swept by two enormous water spouts, accompanied by a terrific hurricane. Those who witnessed the phenomena described the waterspouts as two immense spherical bodies…reaching from the clouds, their cones nearly touching the earth, and…a quarter of a mile apart, travelling with immense velocity…Upwards of 500 persons have been destroyed by this terrible visitation, and an immense amount of property, the country being laid waste for miles…” (Illustrated London News, Dec. 20, 1851)


1873 June 29
‘a dark rolling cloud’

“…Vienna was especially festive and crowded on June 29, 1873. The international industrial exhibition had just opened…It was a warm, humid day. An enormous thunderstorm cloud moved nearer and nearer…Suddenly from it a dark, dense, fast-rotating cloud emerged…fierce gusts of wind destroyed the buildings and uprooted big trees…many persons were killed by the debris flying through the air. An enormous balloon broke its cable…It was found later in Hungary…it was established that the exhibition was destroyed by a diffuse vortex of large size. Its funnel resembled a dark rolling cloud.” (D.V. Nalivkin)


1879 December 28
’two luminous columns’

“At the height of the storm which wrecked the Tay Bridge on 28 December 1879 W.B. Thomson…saw from Broughty Ferry at about 1915 ’two luminous columns of mist or spray’ moving across the river in the direction of the wind. He then saw another one form in front of him ‘rising from the centre of the river’…The estimated height of the columns was 250 - 300 feet. The one he saw passed over him and he found it was wind and spray…He believed that the collapse of the bridge could have been due to one of these columns.” (Cicely M. Botley, Journal of Meteorology, 2, 14)


1883 September 24
‘Meteor and whirlwind’

Karingon, Sweden, about 9 p.m. “During a perfect calm a whirlwind, filled with sand and earth, suddenly appeared from the south-east. At the same time the night was illuminated as bright as day by a magnificent egg-shaped meteor which appeared at the zenith…When the meteor vanished the wind once again became calm. The phenomenon lasted about a minute.” (W.R. Corliss, Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena)


1884 July 20
‘A Waterspout off the English Coast’

Southwold, Suffolk. “In front of dark masses of cloud that moved slowly seaward were several light vapourous cloudlets…that seemed to detach themselves from these masses and then career across the sky, now in one direction, now in another, frequently crossing each other with extraordinary rapidity…a thin streak of cloud…suddenly descended obliquely and struck the sea four or five miles from the shore. For the first few minutes the line thus formed swayed from side to side with the currents of wind. It then became too massive to be thus affected, and appeared a gigantic pillar of water standing perpendicularly between sea and sky…Gradually the column diminished in size until only a thin line remained, which severing at the sea end blew about for a minute or two when it shortened and at last disappeared. Fortunately, as sailors were remarking, no ship was near at the time…” (The Times, July 24, 1884)


1896 September 20
The Thames Estuary, about 4 p.m. “On our port bow was a circle (perhaps ten or twenty feet in diameter) of boiling steaming water, travelling down with the wind…and revolving rapidly the while in ‘the way of the sun’ upon its own centre…the phenomenon, that is to say the effect of the whirlwind, was visible only on the surface of the water. I cannot describe the weirdness and wickedness of its appearance, an effect principally due to the impression which it produced on the mind that it was a living, sentient, and evil thing. A paid hand on board compared it to ‘a nest of white serpents twirling and twisting and gambolling,’ and spoke of the apparition as he…He seemed to be making straight for an excursion steamer…and we expected to see the air filled with hats and parasols and ‘presents from Margate’, but he passed astern of the steamer…a quarter of an hour after the thing had passed there was a flash of lightning and a peal of thunder…” (H. Hall, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 1896, 22)


1930 May 12
‘the Black Hole’

South Atlantic, 5° N., 15° W. “Great black waterspouts had reared themselves seemingly in the immobility of temple pillars. Swollen at their tops, they were supporting the squat and lowering arch of the tempest, but through the rifts in the arch there fell slabs of light and the full moon sent her radiant beams between the pillars down upon the frozen tiles of the sea. Through these uninhabited ruins Mermoz made his way, gliding slantwise from one channel of light to the next, circling round these giant pillars, in which there must have rumbled the upsurge of the sea, flying for four hours through these corridors of moonlight toward the edge of the temple. And this spectacle was so overwhelming that only after he had got through the Black Hole did Mermoz awaken to the fact that he had not been afraid.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)


1938 September 1
‘Waterspouts in the Channel’

“Four waterspouts were seen off the seafront at Bexhill, Sussex, yesterday…Flight Lieutenant J.W. Duggan saw two of the spouts as he was flying a freight machine from Paris. ‘When I got near the English coast there was a fairly low dark cloud and I reduced height’, he told a Press representative. ‘I then saw one of the waterspouts. It was about 1,200 feet high and about 50 yards wide, swirling around, and leaning over to one side. I circled around it for about 10 minutes. A moment or two after the first spout had burst a second one gushed up a short distance away…I saw a small sailing boat apparently in distress trying to get out of the spout’s way, but fortunately the spout was moving towards Bexhill and away from the boat. Before I continued my journey I sent an urgent signal to Croydon to warn other machines.’” (The Times, September 2, 1938)


1948 May 3
‘within the tornado’

McKinney, Texas. “It was the lower end of a tornado funnel. I was looking at its inside, and we were, at the moment, within the tornado itself!…The interior of the funnel was hollow, the rim appearing not over ten feet in thickness…Its inside was so slick and even that it resembled the interior of a glazed standpipe. The whole thing was rotating, shooting past from right to left with incredible velocity…I was looking far up the interior of a great tornado funnel! It extended upward for over 1,000 feet, and was swaying gently and bending slowly toward the southeast. Down at the bottom…the funnel was about 150 yards across. Higher up it was even larger, and seemed to be partly filled with a bright cloud, which shimmered like a fluorescent light.” (Captain R.S. Hall, Weatherwise, 1951, vol. 5, no. 3)


1955 May 22
‘like a beacon’

Blackwell, Oklahoma. “There was a very bright band of blue light around the tornado funnel, which illuminated rapidly rotating clouds around its summit. Sometimes the clouds would pass before the light, dimming it, but when the clouds moved away the light was so brilliant that the observer had to look away. The light and the clouds seemed to be rotating anticlockwise, ‘ilke a beacon in a lighthouse’. Another observer…saw deep blue forked lightning rising from the ground. A third observer…saw the entire length of the funnel illuminated by a very bright, steady deep blue light…As the base of the tornado swung along the ground, a gush of orange fire would emerge from the bottom of the funnel, rise into the air with a ‘terrific light’, and vanish.” (B. Vonnegut and C.B. Moore, Journal of Meteorology, 1957, 14, 284)


1960 May 27
‘Television and Infra-Red Observation Satellite’

“On May 27, 1960, at 1719 C.S.T., TIROS I photographed three clouds, bright and separate from a cloud field to the west, over Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The clouds were dropping hailstones as big as baseballs at the moment the photograph was taken. Shortly afterwards, the southernmost cloud spawned a tornado.” (Weather Eyes in the Sky, J. Gordon Vaeth)