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|Source: NMHS Newsletter May 1994
Famous North Manchester Storms
It was on January 12, 1918, that a storm struck North
Manchester that made even the old timers admit they had
never seen anything like it. The snow and wind had raged
all day on Friday, the 11th, and a southbound Big Four
freight got stuck in a snow drift south of the river
about 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. The northbound
passenger train never made it to North Manchester on
Friday and finally returned to Wabash.
by Ferne Baldwin
Two engines were sent from Wabash to try to reach the
stranded freight but were unable to get through.
Shovelers worked all day Saturday but because of the
high wind and the intense cold could not get the tracks
cleared. A carload of hogs was part of the train and
canvas was used to cover the slatted side of the car to
keep the hogs from freezing. The train had two engines
and all the water had to be drained from them to keep
the pipes from bursting.
The crew was in the caboose with plenty of fuel and food
so they were reasonably comfortable. The train stayed
there all day Saturday and Sunday and finally, late on
Monday, the snow plow from Wabash cleared the track so
the train could proceed.
Not much moved in Manchester on Saturday. No mail came
to town; there were no rural deliveries and James Almack
was the only city carrier to make a delivery. Busses and
rigs were stuck in snow drifts. Car owners did not
venture out. Telephone and telegraph lines were down.
Temperatures ranged from 20 to 25 degrees below zero,
but a very strong wind made it much worse.
WW I was on and because of fuel rationing, there was a
very limited amount of coal in town. Most stores closed
Saturday afternoon and did not reopen in the evening.
Beginning Monday the town slowly came to life again.
A much more sustained storm period came in 1936. On
January 21 North Manchester had a heavy snowfall with
almost blizzard force winds which caused blocked
highways. Several people in stranded autos froze to
death in northern Indiana. Others who lived alone were
found dead in their homes.
On January 22, North Manchester had 17 below zero;
International Falls, Minnesota had 55 below. Day after
day there was subzero weather. By early February the
ground was frozen so deeply that water began to freeze
in both town and country. Some farmers hauled water from
North Manchester for the livestock. Water users in town
were told to keep their water faucets partly open.
On February 3, there was snow, sleet and rain along with
a high wind that glazed roads and closed the schools.
Then it started thawing for a day or two but by Saturday
night another blizzard hit the community and
temperatures were about twelve below zero by Sunday
morning February 9. Most schools were closed.
Some opened briefly but another heavy snow on February
12 caused them to close again for Thursday and Friday.
Thirteen inches of ice was reported on Eel River and ice
on lakes was as thick as three feet. More water pipes
froze. Chester school was closed on February 17 and 18.
Then came the rain, thaw and flood. Eel River and Pony
Creek both rose above flood stage. The thick ice heaved
up in thick chunks. It jammed up at the bends of the
river, especially below Liberty Mills and just below the
Pennsylvania railroad bridge. The Liberty Mills jam
broke but collected again at the Second Street bridge.
Water flowed from the river across Sycamore and Mill
Street and flooded several homes in Riverside. Dynamite
was finally used to break the ice jam at the Second
Other towns were flooded, too. Peru was isolated for a
time. Logansport was flooded and even part of Lagro and
Rich Valley. Wabash residents in low areas had to be
evacuated and about 100 were lodged at the city hall or
other buildings. Some factories were under water. The
temporary bridge across the Eel on Road 15 was washed
away as well as forms and material. There were no
Pennsylvania trains for two days. Eel River overflowed
and water poured directly into Pony Creek. Officially
the river was 14 feet above low water level. New York
Central trains were held south of Urbana because the
track washed out at Paw Paw Creek. Old timers in many
parts of the U.S. remember the winter of '36.
Certain winters become fixed in the memory of people as
record breakers either for cold temperature, heavy
snowfall, or floods. Maybe with all the talk of global
warming such winters are a thing of the past. Some are
eager for a real humdinger again just to reassure us
that we are not becoming "too warm."