June 5, 1841—Tornado!

“Saturday, 5th. Started early to get clear of our red visitors. Descried a large herd of buffalo on the opposite side of the river–saw several boats descending the river, laden with fur, robes, etc. They belonged to the American Fur Company–one of our Company, E. Stone, returned with them.

The latter part of the day was very inclement, high winds, dark clouds rushed in wild confusion around and above us. Soon with amazement we saw a lofty waterspout, towering like a huge column to support the arch of the sky; and while we were moving with all haste, lest it should pass over us and dash our wagons to pieces, it moved off with the swiftness of the wind and was soon lost among the clouds. Rain & hail succeeded, the largest hailstones I ever saw. Several were found, an hour after the sun came out bright & warm, larger than a turkey egg.”

Tornadoes, hailstorms, and wild weather are nothing new to the Great Plains, but this was the first time Bidwell had seen weather quite so spectacular.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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