The almost hurricane winds experienced on Wednesday last here in Tipperary were really nothing new when we examine the history of similar weather patterns experienced previously here in Thurles and indeed on the island of Ireland, down through the centuries.
Surely global warming was not the reason for the hurricane winds of 1839, which had developed similarly after a period of unusual weather and which saw heavy snow falling across Ireland on the night of January 5th of that year. This unusual snowfall was replaced on the following morning, January 6th, by an Atlantic warm front which brought a period of complete calm. Temperatures rose well above the seasonal average and resulted in this previous night’s rare heavy snowfall, melting rapidly.
Main Street, Thurles, (Now renamed Cathedral Street, Thurles) as it looked in 1839 and as viewed from a similar angle today in 2014.
(Picture courtesy St Mary’s Famine Museum, Thurles.)
Like our recent weather conditions experienced, on January 6th 1839 a deep Atlantic depression had begun to move towards Ireland, forming a cold front. When the cold and warm air collided, this resulted in strong winds and heavy rain. From mid-day the stormy weather began to move very slowly across Ireland, gathering immense strength as it wended its way. By midnight the winds had reached hurricane force. This “Night of the Big Wind” was to now to become the most severe of storms to affect Ireland in that century. Historic accounts indicate that as many as 300 people may have lost their lives, with untold damage done to property and personal possessions nationwide. This same afternoon and night of Saturday January 6th, 1839, is now resigned to our history books as Oiche na Gaoithe Moire (Translated from Irish: The Night of the Big Wind.)
Prior to the 1839 January storm, children had played with great enjoyment in the unusual heavy snow, while their parents went about their normal work eagerly preparing for the festivities of the feast of the Epiphany, possibly better known today as “Little Christmas Day.” By dusk, wind speeds had greatly increased, with showers of rain and hail beginning to fall. By 9.00pm that night the wind had reached heavy gale force and continued to pick up speed. Over the next three hours it reached hurricane force, with winds gusts of over 185 km and remained at that level until after 5.00 am in the early morning of January 7th. (Note: regular meteorological observations as a science had begun in 1795.)
On Cathedral Street, Thurles, then known as Main Street, terror reigned as thatched roofs were quickly removed from a small row of houses, (See picture above.). Some of this dislodged thatch quickly caught fire possibly from one of the fireplaces and now fanned by this hurricane wind set fire to the surrounding buildings attached. The sites of these ruined buildings would later be purchased by the Presentation Convent, who in 1862 would replace them with their Secondary School Boarding House, now evident today.
Continue reading Thurles During Night Of The Big Wind 1839