Atlantic City, NJ Storm, Jun 1906

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FIERCE SQUALL SWEEPS ATLANTIC CITY'S CENTER

Thousands of Windows Broken by Downpour of Hail.

FLYING EXPRESS IN PERIL

A Semaphore Falls on the Locomotive, Crippling It---Panic In the Big Hotels.

Special to The New York Times.

ATLANTIC CITY, May 31.---Breaking over this town to-night just as the guests in the big hotels were sitting down to dinner, a squall of great fury, accompanied by large hailstones and lightning blindingly vivid, swept the central part of the city, doing much damage to property and smashing thousands of windows. The suburbs were virtually unscathed and another phenomenon of the storm was that immediately the hail ceased the temperature rose twenty degrees in five minutes, until the flooded streets fairly steamed.

Only the bravery of Engineer Frank Potts prevented a disastrous wreck of the Philadelphia express due here about 6 o'clock. The squall struck the train as it was speeding along at a mile a minute on the meadows, midway between Atlantic City and the mainland. A big semaphore or signal pole broken by the wind fell across the speeding locomotive, breaking off the safety valve and with it a part of the boiler plate, making a hole a foot in diameter.

Steam flooded the cab and enveloped the coaches, and the screeching of the air-brakes added to the fright of the passengers. Women fainted and men in the excitement leaped from the coaches into the storm as soon as the train slowed down. Potts, the engineer, after setting the brakes, called to his fireman, John Sharp, and together they leaped from the cab. Both were badly bruised.

Pott's action in the face of almost certain scalding kept the semaphore from dragging under the wheels and derailing the train. For two hours the express lay helpless on the meadows. A later express, the 5:44 from Philadelphia, brought it into the Tennessee Avenue station.

The storm broke at 6:15 o'clock, and for the five minutes that it raged there was panic in the dining rooms of the hotels. Added to the roar of the tempest was the terrifying crash of thousands of panes or glass smashed by the big hailstones. It was impossible to see the opposite side of the street, so great was the torrent, while blinding lightning pierced the semi-darkness and thunder added to the uproar. Every window on the exposed side of many cottages and hotels was broken, and, the rain, beating in, ruined carpets and furnishings.

Outside the centre of the city little damage was reported. At the bay end of Indiana Avenue a large unoccupied dwelling house was picked up bodily by the gale, carried several hundred feet into the adjoining meadow, and demolished. The wind blew out a brick foundation from under the home of Abraham Pincus, at 904 Ohio Avenue. Mrs. Pincus and seven children were in the building, but ran screaming into the street just as it listed.

The Freno cottage on Indiana Avenue was badly damaged and may have to be torn down. Several other cottages were wrecked to a greater extent.

The storm played havoc with Chelsea's famous "Canvas City," a beach front block laid out with tents and run on the hotel plan. The tents went down at the first breath of the storm. The canvas of many went sailing out to sea, while wreckage of others is scattered along the beach and Boardwalk for half a mile.

Many had narrow escapes from death. A flying shutter was splintered as it struck a wall three inches above the head of acting Fire Chief Cluin, who was answering an alarm. Many persons were cut by flying glass, but the only case treated at the hospital was Frederic Krauff of Maryland Avenue, who was caught under the wreck of a plate glass door blown from a cottage he was passing and badly cut.

A lightning bolt shattered a flagstaff on the trolley barn at the Inlet, and several employes[sic] were slightly shocked. On Atlantic Avenue a portion of a big American flag created a cross current when it became wet with rain, and made a spectacular sight as it burned in midair.

Late reports from the mainland are to the effort that the hail damaged growing crops through the country to the extent of thousands of dollars. Some of the fields were wiped clean of their growth.

The hailstones traveled with such force before the wind that the thick plate glass lens of the Absecon Lighthouse was cracked. Horses standing in the streets, which were left by their owners, who ran to shelter with the coming of the storm, ran away.

The New York Times, New York, NY 1 Jun 1906