You know, I’ve written about a lot of things to date. A lot of things. Some topics have been your typical fodder, while others can only be described as unconventional. But the other day I realized something: I’ve put up north of 40 posts on this site, and I have yet to discuss the weather. Unbelievable. And I have the gall to call myself an Islander.
Now before we begin, I considered covering a topic that was snow-related. I did. But then I thought about it still being the first week of July and all and well, frankly, that’s about the last thing you’d want to read. So today, we’re turning back the clock to June 1935 and checking out a meteorological rarity in these parts, and a first in (recorded) Island history. Ya’ll better batten down the hatches for the Albany Twister.
On June 20, under the headline “A Strange Coincidence”, the Guardian reported on what must have indeed seemed to be just that. According to its sources (unnamed), a patient at the PEI Hospital (currently the vacant Prince Edward Home on Brighton Road) was being visited by friends the previous Friday (June 14). Like true Islanders, the weather inevitably cropped up in conversation, whereupon said patient apparently passed comment on the fact that the province was such a blessed place never to have been hit by the likes of a cyclone, tornado, etc. It was upon that remark that another patient in the room, salesman Stephen Franklin Tarbrush of 195 Kent Street, chimed in with: “Our turn is coming, when the Almighty sees fit to send it”.
Geez, what a Debbie Downer.
Anyway, hindsight tells us that this might have been something of an apocryphal anecdote. Or maybe, just maybe, Tarbrush was a budding clairvoyant, because about the time he was said to have made that claim, an actual, honest-to-God tornado was wreaking havoc about 30 miles outside Charlottetown in a tiny community on the Island’s south shore.
What began as an otherwise ordinary Friday afternoon in June in little agricultural Albany, just outside Borden-Carleton, quickly degenerated into a living nightmare. For about an hour, dark clouds had been rolling in, and round 3:30 PM, residents couldn’t help but notice the formation about a mile off of what was described as a “tremendous whirling funnel attended by gigantic clouds of dust” – an actual tornado, or twister as it was called in the press. Then came an ungodly roaring noise, and the next thing people knew, according to Rev. W.E. Monaghan (later interviewed by the Guardian as an eyewitness to the event), “trees a foot and a half in diameter were uprooted and buildings sent flying” and machinery was “thrown hundreds of feet and parts of buildings carried for a quarter mile.” Monaghan himself lost a barn in the storm, which lasted for all of 10-12 minutes. Of course, the twister wasn’t content to visit on its own, and was nice enough to bring along some friends. These included a pelting rainfall and hail storm, and thunder and lightning so intense that the shock of the latter’s strike close to the school in nearby Kinkora was felt by children seated in class.
And then, just as quickly as it arrived, the violent tempest blew over, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The overall damages were reported to be heavy (no dollar amount was ever given) yet miraculously no one was killed, or even injured. Although I daresay many of those students likely had a phobia of lightning long after the fact.
As is often the case with events such as these, official reports were quickly followed up by others of more dubious origin, like that of the supposedly prophetic Tarbrush. Or that of a farmer who claimed to have borne witness to a horse “rise and pass over his house like an aeroplane”, leading him to doubt the significance of the question of whether or not pigs can fly.
Windy? More like whinny-dy…
You know what, just forget you read that last bit. Please.
PEI History Guy