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Vermont Tornado, 1788

On August 26, 1788, a violent tornado swept through southern Vermont and western Massachusetts.  It is possible that multiple tornadoes had touched down during this infrequent local weather event. In many locations, large trees were uprooted or snapped off at their base. At least one child was killed as a result of the tornado.

The tornado may have followed the path of the Connecticut River. Putney and Dummerston Vermont are near the river, while Petersham, MA, is located some distance away. The September 1, 1788, Boston Gazette describes the tornado and its destruction:

"On Tuesday last week in the afternoon, the back parts of this country was visited with a most furious tornado; which came from the southwest, and in its course extended many miles in width. By accounts from New York, Connecticut, Vermont & New Hampshire, we learn, that it was severely felt in parts of all those states; as yet we have not been favored with very particular accounts of the damage sustained by this convulsion of nature, but as it extended over a large tract of country it must be great.

At Putney, in the state of Vermont, a number of barns were unroofed, several cattle killed by the falling of trees, which in some places were broken off, and in others hurled up by the roots. Much grain and many fruit trees were destroyed. In Dummerston, a young child was killed by the falling of a tree, as it was fleeing with its mother across a wood to the house of the nearest neighbour.

Scarcely a town in that vicinity, that has not suffered considerably by cattle being killed, buildings being unroofed and blown down, and in some places the devastation is marked by acres of sturdy oaks being swept from their places by this terrible besom [broom] of destruction.

The wind blew for about 15 minutes southwardly, and then suddenly varied southwestwardly, seemingly with redoubted violence. The effects of the tornado appeared similar in Petersham, Westminster, and other towns in this country. The roads in many places were blocked up with fallen trees, some of which were two feet in diameter, and were broken off only a few feet from the ground, and many were violently removed many yards distance."


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