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Stormy weather – 1891

Tuam Herald 2nd September, 1891 p.3

Photo: Norma Scheibe

Photo: Norma Scheibe

A thunder-storm of very peculiar character broke over this town yesterday morning about half past ten o’clock. The sky all round the horizon was clear, and there were no clouds anywhere to indicate what was about to take place, when we were startled by a loud peal, almost directly over us. On looking up, a dark gathering was now perceived about the zenith, but the general brightness of the atmosphere, so unlike anything that we had ever before observed during a thunder-storm, reminded us of the phenomenon considered by the ancients as a proof of the existence of Jupiter, when thunder claps were heard in a cloudless sky. The darkness above, however, quickly increased, and clouds – coming no one knew whence, but seeming to grow suddenly out of the disturbed air – began to settle over the town in dense masses interlaced with continual streams of vivid lightning.
A grey veil of rain soon appeared to hang down along the entire of the bay, dimming the brightness of the Burren hills, which were evidently at the time in full sunshine. The thunder roll was now almost incessant, and the display of lightning was, perhaps, the finest we ever witnessed. The immense length of the jagged shafts from the zenith to the horizon, and from the horizon back again to the zenith, crossing the sky several other directions, was among the most striking features of the display. The height of the storm was from four to five miles, and it continued stationary for almost an hour, when it slowly moved towards the north-east, leaving us again in bright sunlight.
But all was not yet over, for about two o’clock the sky began to darken toward the south-west, and the thunder recommenced. At half past two a white stream of lightning, accompanied by an explosion of a most terrific character, with a metallic ring in the sound, seemed to fall in the neighbourhood of the square, and we were soon after informed that the Bank of Ireland had, in fact, been struck by the electric fluid. After this the electric discharges continued with little intermission on every side, and shortly before three o’clock there was a shower of immense hailstones, accompanied by rain of such character as might almost suggest the outpouring of a celestial lake, and the streets became flooded almost instantaneously. This shower, fortunately for the hay and other crops about Galway, continued only for a few minutes, while it probably embraced but a narrow tract of country on its route; and it is to be hoped that but little harm was done anywhere by the storm in proportion to its apparently formidable character.
Distant thunder was heard for the remainder of the day. On inquiry at the bank we were kindly shown over the place by the manager, Mr. McDowell, when we found that the lightning first struck one of the chimneys, displacing several stones at the top and throwing one large one bodily into the yard at a distance of several feet from the house. Descending the chimney it penetrated the ceiling of one of the rooms making a very small hole and scattering the plaster in various directions. It then ran along a bell-wire under the ceiling on which it left several deposits that suggested a metallic character by their various iridescent colors of pink, yellow, blue &c.  Reaching another apartment, strange to say, it forsook the wire and entered between the stucco plastering and the wall by rather a large breach, and there all further trace of its course was lost.
Several of the inmates of the house were severely affected by the concussion, either violently shaken or thrown down, and one of the servants was rendered insensible for some moments. One of the gentlemen in the bank office saw the lightning, as it appeared to him, playing among the iron railing outside which may, possibly have acted partially as a conductor, attracting a great portion of the electric fluid, and thus saving a great catastrophe.
Happily we enjoy a comparative immunity from thunder storms in Galway. Anything approaching the phenomenon of yesterday has not occurred with the memory of the oldest inhabitant.
Galway Vindicator.

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