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The Tornado that hit Marong in Victoria

Image Courtesy: Museum Victoria

Marong is a small town located 17km west of Bendigo. On the afternoon of 27th September 1911, shortly before 3’0’ clock in the afternoon, a weather event, The Bureau of Meteorology described as one of the most violent and destructive in Australia’s meteorological history shook the residents. It was a tornado. The tornado began near Wilson’s Hill, Marong and ended in Lockwood. The only graphic proof of the event that exist today was taken by C. Hosken who just happened to be in his backyard with the camera. While it was crossing over the adjacent country, just at the moment it emerged from the forest land into some clear country he snapped the shot. The newspapers at that time reported that, the foot of the tornado at its thinnest part was only 20metres and about 1.5km in height. It was a dark, grand, and menacing object and rain in black torrents was descending from it along with masses of hail and ice. With the destruction it caused, the experts today estimate it to be a Fujita scale 3 tornado, which can overthrow trains and lift heavy cars off the ground and throw.

Hosken’s image of Marong Tornado is believed to be the earliest photographic record of a tornado in Australia. Weather events like Tornado, though not common are not strange to Marong. The region bounded by Daylesford, Seymour, Bendigo and Maryborough is considered as the Tornado triangle due to the likelyhood of such weather events occurring. There was one tornado reported near Marong in 1976 and one as recently as 2017.

One life was lost and many injured in the 1911 tornado.


For a complete understanding of the effects of the Tornado that hit Marong, we have decided to publish a part of the news report that appeared on The Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 – 1918) on Thursday 28 Sep 1911 / Accessed from the database of National Library of Australia

 

A VIOLENT TORNADO. MARONG, DERBY AND LEICHARDT

MUCH DAMAGE DONE EXCITING SCENES; MR. P. JORDAN MORTALLY INJURED.

What could have been called a tornado passed yesterday afternoon from the east to the west from about Derby through Leichardt and past Marong. It caused considerable damage and severely, if not fatally, injured a resident of Wilson’s Hill. It was shortly before 3 o’clock when the most violet part of the thunderstorm passed over Marong. The thunder was strong, the lightning fierce, and the rain heavy. As seen from Bendigo at the time all the country in that direction had a peculiarly heavy and stormy blue-black appearance.

Following the rain fall columns apparently of heavy clouds, laden with hail and it is stated with “blocks of ice,” were observed travelling in a terrific hurry from the east or north-east. The chief centre of the disturbance was only from a chain to five chains in width. It passed about one mile south of the township of Marong and was followed by hail.

The damage caused was considerable as in some places it was swept, away everything in its course. Between Derby and Leichardt hundreds of chains of fencing, sheds and hundreds of trees were torn down and hurled in all directions, some of the debris falling chains from the path made by the storm. Reaching Marong, the residence of Mrs E.J. Goulden was rattled, and most of the windows in the place broken.

Mrs. Goulden is an elderly lady, and afterwards suffered greatly from the alarm which she received. Her residence escaped complete destruction apparently because it was on the edge of the storm.

A few chains to the side of the house fences and trees were levelled. The Wilson’s Hill State school was equally fortunate in escaping destruction. The only damage there was the breaking of the windows on one side. Travelling on now at an even more violent rate, Carter Brothers’ battery building was wrecked, and the debris carried for miles. The machinery of the battery had been removed, and only the shell remained. Now only the foundation studs are visible. Almost adjoining the battery was a four-roomed weatherboard house, the residence of Mr. P. Jordan, contractor for the Marong Shire Council. It got the full force of the tornado and was ruined. Only a small portion of the eastern wall now remains.

At the time of the disaster Mr. Jordan was in one of the rooms conversing with his wife, who was sitting with their four-year-old son. A lad named Wilson, employed by Mr. Jordan was also in the house, but was standing at the door on the eastern side. When the house was carried away, he clung to the door, and escaped injury. The Jordan family, being further, away from the fortunate wall, were taken with the house and now, Mr. Jordan is lying at the Railway Hotel, Marong, in a critical condition and Mrs. Jordan is suffering severely from shock. The little boy was not injured. Seeing that no serious harm had befallen their mother, Messrs. J. B.and A. Goulden thoughtfully followed the track left by the storm, to see if any of the neighbors required help.

 Arriving at Jordan’s a sad spectacle met their eyes. The building, as stated, was destroyed, and the debris lying about — some of it about a mile away. The lad Wilson met them and said that both Mr. and Mrs. Jordan had been in the house. As they could not be seen, grave fears for their safety were entertained, but hopes were raised when the little boy was seen running to an object lying about 2 chains from the destroyed home. It was that of his father, who was lying on the ground unconscious, and bleeding from wounds on different parts of the body. He was quickly taken to the Railway Hotel; Marong and a doctor was summoned.

Dr. Rockett went out from Bendigo as quickly as possible. He states that the unfortunate man is very seriously injured, and his chance of recovery remote. Most of his ribs are broken, his skull badly fractured, and the spine injured.It is also feared that there are internal, injuries. The injured man is 40 years of age, and of a genial disposition, and was an old resident of the district. Great sympathy is felt for him and his family.

Mrs. Jordan was found unconscious about one chain from the house. She, however, was quickly brought round, but is now suffering greatly from nervous shock. The loss to the family is a complete one, as not even an unbroken chair can be found. Several of the articles of furniture were of considerable value. There were four wood drays in the yard adjoining Mr. Jordan’s house, and three were damaged, two beyond repair. The fourth was lifted completely, and dropped over a fence about two chains away, very little damaged. All the sheds in the yard were destroyed. Fortunately, there were no horses at the homestead at the time, Mr. Jordan having turned them out to grass only yesterday morning.

Beyond Wilson’s Hill Argyle’s farm was passed through, and many roods of fencing were destroyed, Trees were rooted out of the ground and young crops levelled. A little further on, and in property owned by Mr. McLay, a haystack was lifted from its stand and carried high into the air, when it broke up into millions of fragments. It seemed as if each straw was separated from its bundle, and the many tens of thousands of straws gradually fell to the ground. For a time, it appeared to rain straw along with branches of frees. In the same property a cow was lifted off its legs, and like everything else was carried away. It was dropped on the ground from a considerable height, and its four legs were all broken. Numerous other cattle in the neighbourhood were more or less injured.

Beyond McLay’s property nothing serious is reported. But for miles the tornado’s track could he traced where fences wore blown down. In many places big trees were thrown across the roads, and in several instances, traffic has been stopped. Several small culverts were also carried away, which will add to the dangers of travelling in this locality after dark. The storm was followed by sharp hail, which in itself did a little damage. Some of the stones are described as having been as large as hen’s eggs.

Image Courtesy: Museum Victoria

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      Marong is a small town located 17km west of Bendigo. On the afternoon of 27th September 1911, shortly before 3’0’ clock in the afternoon, a weather ev
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