Friday, August 12, 2011

“Geauga in Print: Part Two”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
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While researching online newspaper archives to read about past events in Geauga County history, one particular story caught my attention.

It was a report about the earthquake that struck our area in 1986.

At the time, I was employed at Fisher’s Big Wheel, a department store located on Water Street in Chardon.

After working a twelve-hour overnight shift, I returned home to my residence on Maple Avenue. Family conversation ensued, as I skimmed lazily through an issue of the Geauga Times-Leader. Television news flickered in the background. Macaroni and cheese bubbled on the stove.

Finally, as fatigue took hold, I poured a cup of coffee and dished out a plate of food. My eyes were heavy. In a dream-like state, I began to eat.

Suddenly, there was a sound like the impact of a large truck hitting our house. I jumped up from the dining room table. The walls were literally moving back and forth. I gasped, thinking the house was about to collapse.

And then it was over.

Later, we would call it the ‘Great Quake’ of Geauga.

Reading this old story revived my recollections of this unusual event:

The Spartanburg Herald-Journal - February 1, 1986

A strong earthquake near Cleveland rumbled through nine states and part of Canada on Friday, shattering glass, sounding an alarm at an unfinished nuclear plant, shutting off three coal-fired generators and slightly injuring two people.

The U.S. Geological Survey in Washington estimated that the quake, which occurred at 11:47 a.m. EST, had a magnitude of 5.0 on the Richter scale of ground movement and was centered 30 miles northeast of Cleveland.

“I’ve been through tornadoes and floods, but nothing like this,” said Betty McFarland, a bus driver for the Mentor public school in Ohio’s Lake County, where two people were treated for cuts from flying glass and falling ceiling tiles.

Emergency alarms were activated and employees were sent home at the Perry nuclear plant, 35 miles east of Cleveland, but Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. spokesman Lee Bailey said there was no structural damage. Fuel rods on the site waiting to be loaded in reactors were not damaged, he said.

Bailey said the earthquake knocked out a 650-megawatt generator at the company’s Eastlake coal-burning plant. However, other generators picked up the slack and no outages were reported.

Two coal-fired generators at the Belle River power plant near Marine City, Mich. also shut down because the tremor triggered a safety device which detects excess vibration, said Carla Gribbs, spokeswoman for Detroit Edison Co.

Electric service was not affected, she said.

The quake was felt in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Wisconsin and as far north as Barrie, Ontario. Ira Stohlman, a City Council staff member in Washington, D.C., said the city government building two blocks from the White House shook.

“The ceiling looked like it was going to fall down,” said Mike Hodgins, a senior at Lake Catholic High School in Mentor, a suburb about 20 miles northeast of Cleveland. “It was just like in the movies. The walls were shaking back and forth.”

In Chardon, Ohio, panes of glass shattered at a grocery store.

Mentor police dispatcher Jeff Ackerman said a Sears store was closed at the Great Lakes Mall because of the quake, but he knew of no injuries. He said at least one older school building was evacuated to check for cracks.

“This quake was significantly larger than previous Ohio quakes, with the exception of one or two in the 1930’s,” said Mark Wilson, a professor of geology at the College of Wooster. “It’s a substantial quake for Ohio, but comparatively minor when you think on an international scale.”

Today, the Great Quake of Geauga has become part of local folklore. I remember seeing a cracked interior wall at Big Wheel, soon after the historic event. Friends who worked at Kresse’s Bi-Rite supermarket in Chardon spoke about jars of spaghetti sauce jumping off their shelves. The result was a mess.

Strangely, a friend who lived in Munson was driving back from Columbus when the quake struck. He felt nothing while traveling north on I-71.

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Blogger unigami said...

I vividly remember this! I was working at Chardon Rubber at the time, and my office was right next to (and underneath) the huge water tower that they had at the corner of the parking lot. It looked like a fat flying saucer perched on four spindly legs. When the earthquake hit, I thought for sure that the old water tower was falling in pieces on the building. I ran outside, along with others, and we could see a huge black cloud of what we assumed was smoke coming out of the open windows of the building where they mixed up the rubber compound. Some of us wondered if something had blown up in the building and if anyone was hurt until one guy, who used to live in California, came out and told us that we had just experienced an earthquake. It was the first one I had ever felt, and to this day I think it is the strongest one I've ever felt. Great article!

1:24 PM  

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