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Cyclone Park, New Richmond

Our View: Tornado leveled city exactly 115 years ago

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Our View: Tornado leveled city exactly 115 years ago
New Richmond Wisconsin 127 South Knowles Avenue 54017

Record books show New Richmond as the site of the ninth-deadliest U.S. tornado in history with 117 deaths on June 12, 1899 – exactly 115 years ago. It was No. 8 on the list until May 22, 2011, when a massive twister tore through Joplin, Mo., killing 158 people.

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Looking at The City Beautiful today, it is difficult to imagine the carnage and turmoil that encompassed New Richmond in 1899. The very streets we travel today were clogged with rubble and debris of all sorts. Entire homes were swept away. Trees were uprooted. And 117 people perished.

We encourage New Richmond residents to take a moment today to think about what that day might have been like. All residents should learn more about that day, and here are some ways to do so:

Tour the New Richmond Heritage Center (1100 Heritage Dr.) and view the cyclone display in the pavilion. The center is offering free tours of the exhibit from noon to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Sunday this week.

Visit the C.A. Friday Memorial Library (155 E. First St.) and ask to listen to the oral histories from New Richmond residents who lived during the tornado. Librarians can also help you view an image collection showing the storm-damaged city.

Also at the library, page through one of its books on the subject, including “The New Richmond Tornado of 1899: A Modern Herculaneum” by Anna P. Epley, “They Built Their City Twice” by Mary Sather and “Not to be Forgotten … 1899 Cyclone: A Testimony of Survivors” written and submitted by family members most affected by the disaster.

Pause at Cyclone Park – along Campus Drive and South Knowles Avenue – to read the historical marker and remember those who died in the tornado. Volunteers planted 117 trees in the park to symbolize each person.

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