Wild Weather in 1817

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Events in Rohatyn in the early 19th century were very local; although sharing the trends and issues of eastern Galicia, few of the town’s activities could compete for broad interest with the larger provincial news. But in July 1817, a startling event occurred in Rohatyn which made the front page of the only newspaper in the crownland, sharing primary journal space with the Galician tour of the Emperor Francis. In his Galician Portraits [1], a history of the Jewish side of his family in Rohatyn and elsewhere, Dr. Andrew Zalewski translates the eyewitness news account given to the Gazeta Lwowska for their edition of 26 July 1817 [2]:

1817 Rohatyn hailstorm

The 1817 Rohatyn hailstorm, reported in Gazeta Lwowska.

“The weather was beautiful with clear visibility; only the heat of the sun was bothersome. At noon, a cloud appeared in the southwest, rapidly increasing in size. It descended low and darkened the horizon, transforming the day into darkest night. At the same time, such a violent and powerful storm struck that it is difficult to describe…; hail and massive rain overturned huts, barns, and sheds, while lifting up and blowing away stacks of hay, houses’ roofs, huge trees in the forests and fruit trees in the orchards; [all of this happening] in the blink of an eye.”

“The heavy downpour of hail – the size of hazelnuts and in a few places larger – covered the ground a couple of feet deep, and stayed there from that afternoon until the next day. [The hail] mangled rows of growing grain and vegetables, and killed geese and other birds, as well as young calves in the pastures. People running for cover were injured and bloodied. The streams overfilled with water that damaged the mills, big and small, and this entire disaster, which will be remembered for a long time, occurred in the course of half an hour.”

Rohatyn would recover quickly, and soon the storm would be remembered only in the newspaper archives.


[1] Galician Portraits: In Search of Jewish Roots; Andrew Zalewski; Thelzo Press, Jenkintown, PA, USA; 2014; p.137.

[2] Gazeta Lwowska, 1817 nr 119; Franciszek Kratter, ed.; Lwów; 26 July 1817; Jagiellonian Digital Library; Biblioteka Jagiellońska; oai:jbc.bj.uj.edu.pl:10549; p.1.