New York, NY Storm, Jul 1922

Lightning Kills 3; Many Buildings Hut; Subway Is Flooded

Rush of Waters During Heavy Rain Ties Up Broadway I.R.T. Half an Hour.

Bolt Strikes Post Office

Fifth Avenue Home Is Set Ablaze and Fire Headquarters Flagpole Shivered.

Many Basements Flooded

36 Families and Movie Audience Are Ordered Out as a Precaution.

Severe electrical storms, accompanied by high winds and heavy rains, swept over New York City and the surrounding country yesterday afternoon. Two persons were killed by lightning in Westchester and one in New Jersey, and three workmen were badly hurt in the collapse of a building in the Bronx. Extensive damage was done to property in Manhattan and the Bronx, especially by the torrential rains.

The lightning was almost incessant and several buildings in the centre of the city were struck. Among these were the General Post Office and two structures near by. A Fifth Avenue house was struck and fire burned out one room. The flagpole of the Fire Headquarters Building was shattered.

Water poured through the streets of the upper parts of the city in small rivers, flooding basements and overrunning sewers. The Broadway branch of the Interborough subway was flooded and tied up for half an hour, and railroad traffic entering and leaving the city was delayed for varying periods. One of the greatest sources of potential trouble was the rush of waters underneath buildings. Occupants of an apartment house and a moving picture theater on Washington Heights were ordered out of the buildings during the worst of the rain because of the danger of collapse, but were allowed to return later.

Although official warnings of approaching storm had been issued, thousands were caught at the beaches, where they fled to escape the sweltering heat that had hung over the city since Wednesday.

Prostrations From Heat.

One man died form heat prostration yesterday noon and many others collapsed before the heat wave was broken. At 1:55 P.M. at the United States Weather Bureau downtown the thermometer registered 101 degrees, making it the hottest day of the year. The storm began at 2:40 o’clock, after a sharp drop in temperature. It was cooler last night and the prediction for today was fair and cooler.

The worst flood was reported about 4 o’clock in the region about 157th Street and Broadway, which in hollow ground with hills stretching northward. Down the incline of Fort Washington Avenue and Broadway came torrents of water, above and below the surface. The overflow from the sewer rushed underneath the basement of the Rio Vista apartment house and the Costello moving picture theatre, at 21 and 23 Fort Washington Avenue, respectively. To this was added water from an old spring on top of the hill above.

An employee of the apartment house at 820 Riverside Drive, noticed the danger to that house when he found his own cellar flooded. The police and firemen were called, and Battalion Chief Webber decided that it was dangerous to allow occupants of the two buildings to remain. He ordered them out pending an investigation by the Building Department.

Ordered Out of Apartments.

Thirty-six families migrated from the apartment house and from 200 to 300 persons left the moving picture theatre. It was about 4 o’clock when the people were ordered out, and it was two hours later when the tenants were allowed to return. They spent the intervening time in the apartments in the vicinity. Policemen prevented entrance into the buildings while inspectors of the Building Department made a thorough investigation, at the end of which they reported no further danger.

Rushing past the apartment house and movie theatre meanwhile, the water had seeped into the subway through the ventilating apertures and the entrances at 157th Street. The same thing had happened further north at 168th Street. Traffic was stopped completely for half an hour and delayed for another half hour.

At the 157th Street station large quantities of water reached the tracks, but the Interborough operating headquarters was notified in time to shut off the power before the water touched the third rail.

At 168th Street access to the station platforms is by elevators, two of which are in use. A second shaft is not being sunk on the west side of the street to provide greater elevator facilities. Water filled this shaft completely, and it seeped down into the tunnel, short-circuiting the two elevators in operation out of commission.

Delay in the Subway.

This happened at the beginning of the evening rush hour, and hundreds of passengers either climbed the emergency stairway to the street 125 feet above or crossed over to the other side of the station and took a downtown train, adding to the congestion at 157th Street.

Although the power was turned on again after half an hour, it was nearly an hour before the congestion was relieved and the subway was again running normally.

Recalling the loss of life and damage to property suffered by the Bronx in the storm of June 11, residents of that Borough were frightened to the verge of panic when the storm broke yesterday. As in other places affected the evil effects of the storm were confined chiefly to the flooding of streets and cellars. In the neighborhood of Park and Webster Avenues, the sewers overflowed, the manhole covers popped off one after the other, causing miniature geysers to spout three or four feet high.

Deaths from lightning were reported from Crestwood, where two men working on the Bronx Parkway were killed. The men were Gustav Rung, 40 years old, of 282 Hopkinson Avenue, Brooklyn, foreman of a gang of workmen, and George Madura, 35, of 325 Nepperhan Avenue, Yonkers, one of the laborers. They were struck while standing under a tree for shelter from the rain. Wendell Gruver of Tuckahoe, who stood near them under the same tree, was not hurt. The third fatality from lightning was reported in Mount Holly, N.J., where Myrtle Stewart, 14 years old, a farmer’s daughter, was killed. She had gone upstairs in her father’s house to close a window, when she was struck. The lightning bored a hole two inches in diameter in the wall.

Four Laborers Hurt in Collapse.

The collapse of a house under construction in the Bronx caused serious injury to three workmen and slight injury to another. Four more laborers were buried in the debris, but crawled out unhurt. The house was on a side street near Pelham Parkway. According to the contractor it was struck by lightning, although other reports indicated that it might have been blown down by the wind. John Leoyant, 45 years old, of 3,509 White Plains Avenue, was taken to Fordham Hospital suffering from a fractured skull. To the same hospital were taken Joseph Lauder, 30, of 3,648 White Plains Avenue, fractured thigh and Frank Allegro, 40 of 328 East 114th Street, fractured ribs and spine. The fourth man went home after receiving medical treatment.

Among several buildings struck by lightning in the central part of the city was the General Post Office. A granite cornice was knocked off the southwest end of the building, at Thirty-first Street and Ninth Avenue. It fell to the street, but struck no one. Two buildings near the Post Office also were hit-the Printing Crafts Building, Eighth Avenue and Thirty-third Street, and a printing building at 406 West Thirty-first Street.

The five-story home of Mrs. Sophie Watts Sherman at 838 Fifth Avenue was struck. The house is at Sixty-fifth Street, across from Vincent Astor’s home. Mrs. Sherman is in Newport, and a caretaker is in charge. He was in the backyard when a bolt of lightning shook the house and almost knocked him down. Running upstairs he found the sitting room on the fourth floor, overlooking Sixty-fifth Street, was afire. Firemen were called and the blaze was extinguished after all the contents of the room had been destroyed.

Fire headquarters itself, at 151 East Sixty-seventh Street, was hit by lightning. It is a six-story building, with a flagpole on the roof, and the Fire Telegraph Bureau on the top floor. A bolt of lightning struck the flagpole and circled around it, knocking some of the woodwork to the street, but must have grounded before reaching the building. Otherwise, the work of the telegraph bureau would have met with serious interference. Neither the firemen in the building nor any of the network of communications suffered in the slightest.

Five houses in the North Hudson section of Hudson County, N.J., were set on fire by lightning. In each case the fire was put out. In Union Hill lightning struck the Town hall and damaged the fire alarm system.

A small blaze was caused by lightning which struck a motor in the refrigerating plant of the Tide Water Oil Company, Bayonne. It was quickly extinguished.

The usual difficulty with telephone service accompanied the storm, although it was not pronounced in any particular place. New York escaped interference with its electric lighting system, but lightning struck the poles and wires of the Public Service electric light system at Bound Brook, N.J., and plunged that place and Somerville into darkness for four hours.

Sporting Spectators Frightened.

Crowds attending outdoor sporting events were trapped and frightened by the storm. Lightning played around the Empire City race track outside of Yonkers, striking a flagpole and a small house at the end of the track. Thousands were caught at the baseball game at the Polo Grounds.

Farmers in various parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut reported considerable damage to their crops and gardens. The wind and rain destroyed row after row of corn stalks and bean poles, among other growing produce. Residents of the Hudson Valley in the neighborhood of Hastings said that an unusual phenomenon was observed there. According to his testimony, there was a continuous roll of thunder for an hour, which called to mind the days of Rip Van Winkle and the bowling legends of the valley.

At the Weather Bureau it was said the storm was just an ordinary Summer thunderstorm, which had come from the lake region and gone out to sea after covering a large area of the metropolitan district. It was followed by a drop of about 15 degrees in temperature within a short time, although the humidity rose, and it was rather uncomfortable last night for that reason.

One Death From Heat.

The heat yesterday morning caused the death of Sebastiano Duletto, 50 years old, of 39 Gunther Street, Corona. Found unconscious from heat prostration in a new building, where he was working as a carpenter, the man died in the Fushing Hospital. Peter Nielson, 23, a laborer, was an indirect victim of the heat. He collapsed as the result of prostration when working on the barge Imperial at the foot of Sixty-fifth Street and the North River, and in falling rolled into the river and was drowned.

Among the heat victims treated in the hospitals were:
HUPSY, THOMAS, 44, 653 Water Street; taken to Gouverneur Hospital from 31 Montgomery Street.
SACKMAN, ROSE, 18, 152 West 118th Street; taken to Harlem Hospital from Lenox Avenue and 116th Street.
SWALLOW, MARGARET, 26, 507 Seneca Avenue, Ridgewood, Queens; taken to Wyckoff Heights Hospital from the Banner Knitting Mills, Ridgewood.
WALSH, JOHN, 50, 300 East Twenty-fifth Street; taken to Kings County Hospital from steamship Cold Harbor Pier 3 foot of Forty-seventh Street, Brooklyn.

Two men, each 70 years old, were overcome by heat in Jersey City. Gus Joseph of 356 York Street was overcome at Newark Avenue and Coles Street and Michael O’Neill of 158 St. Paul’s Avenue, an employee of the Department of Streets and Public Improvements, collapsed at Lake Street and Tonnele Avenue. They are in the City Hospital.

The New York Times, New York, NY 14 Jul 1922