A look back at the deadliest tornado to ever strike New Jersey
Thursday afternoon and evening saw tornado warnings in many spots in New Jersey. Our radio station was at ground zero for what Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow called a confirmed tornado rotating over Ewing Township. The only thing he wasn’t sure of is whether it had touched ground or remained above. At one point this tornado was just 4 miles away from the radio station.
There were so many warnings. At 8:15pm the National Weather Serbice called it a confirmed tornado over Lakehurst.
The National Weather Service will be fanning out to many spots around New Jersey surveying areas for damage to determine if tornados were present. Willingboro and Mount Holly is one hotspot. Harvey Cedars and Barnegat Township is another.
We’ve had clusters of tornadoes before. On November 16, 1989 New Jersey had 7 separate tornadoes touch down in a single day. There were 5 on March 10, 1964, and 4 on October 18, 1990. All that according to Dan Zarrow.
But what was the deadliest tornado to ever strike New Jersey? Here’s a look back.
It happened in 1835. 26 years before the Civil War began. On Friday afternoon June 19, 1835 a tornado touched down in New Brunswick and left $300,000 damage (over $7 million by today’s standards). It also took several lives.
The following day it got a write up in the New York Evening Star. Here’s an excerpt:
"About 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon, a tornado passed over the town of Piscataway, about two miles from New Brunswick, which destroyed every house but two. The current proceeded towards the City of New Brunswick, and made dreadful havoc in that place, destroying and injuring nearly one hundred and fifty houses in Liberty, Richmond and Schureman streets. The most melancholy part of the accident is the death of several persons.There were 5 deaths, and here are 4 of them. A widow lady by the name of Van Arsdale, a man called Henry Boorsem, formerly a midshipman in the Navy, who was killed in the street, and a boy named Bayard."
The path of destruction ran right through what is now Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. From there it cut a path toward Monument Square causing damage on George Street then moved to the river and into Piscataway. There it disintegrated ten of twelve houses.
It stands as the deadliest tornado in New Jersey history.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.
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