Thursday, February 28, 2013
  And a third mystery unraveled!

Another long-lasting question answered!

What did tornados sound like before freight trains and jet planes were invented?

The answer comes from the 1816 Encyclopedia Perthensis, under the long section on Electricity.



Tranfcribed to make the text fearchable, and to fubftitute ftandard f's for thofe ftrange f's that feem to be f's:
"August 2, 1763, about six in the evening, there arose at Anderlight [Anderlecht], about a league from Brussels, a conflict of several winds born upon a thick fog. This conflict lasted 4 or 5 minutes, and was attended with a frightful hissing noise, which could be compared to nothing but the yellings of an infinite number of wild beasts. The clouds then opening, discovered a kind of very bright lightning, and in an instant the roofs of one side of the houses were carried off and dispersed at a distance; above 1000 large trees were broke off, some near the ground, others near the top, some torn up by the roots; and many of the branches and tops carried to the distance of 60, 100 or 120 paces. Whole coppices were laid down, as corn is by ordinary winds; and the glass of the windows, situated near the spot, was shivered to atoms."

It is not unusual for thunder-storms to produce most violent whirlwinds, such as are by some philosophers attributed to electricity; nay, even to occasion an agitation in the waters of the ocean itself; and all this too after the thunder and lightning has ceased. Of this the following instance happened at Great Malvern, October 16, 1761:

"At a quarter past 4 in the afternoon, the people were surprised with a most shocking and dismal noise; 100 forges, all at work at once, could scarce equal it. Upon the side of the hill about 100 yards to the SW, there appeared a prodigious smoke, attended with the same violent noise, as if a volcano had burst out of the hill; it soon descended, and passed on within about 100 yards of the south end of the house; it seemed to rise again in the meadow just below it, and continued its progress to the east, rising in the same manner for four different times, attended with the same dismal noise as at first; the air being filled with a nauseous and sulphurous smell. It gradually decreased till it was quite extinguished in a turnip field, about a quarter of a mile below the house; the turnip leaves, with leaves of trees, dirt, sticks, &c. filled the air, and flew higher than any of the hills. The thunder ceased before this happened, and the air soon afterwards became calm and serene."

The first incident could be a tornado, but seems more like a derecho or even a Chelyabinsk-size meteor. The second is unquestionably a tornado.
 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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