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June 23, 1882: Mystery Wave Sweeps Cleveland

1882 Mystery Wave ClippingLarge waves arriving from a calm Lake Erie have hit the North Coast at least twice, in 1882 and 1942. Seven people were drowned in the 1942 wave, reported to be up to 15 feet high from Bay Village to Geneva. The 1882 wave was more than 8 feet high. It came ashore at 6:20 A.M. “carrying before it everything movable and some things supposed immovable.” Huge logs were carried hundreds of feet inland, fires were extinguished at the Lake Erie rolling mill, barges tossed onto dry ground, and the mooring lines snapped on ships. Distant thunder was heard offshore ten minutes before the wave hit and a heavy cloud was observed over the lake. The lake was calm and the approaching wave swept along silently until it reached shallow water, where it made a loud “swishing noise and broke on the shore with a great roar.” No strong wind was reported that morning from shore. There was no report of a large wave elsewhere on Lake Erie and no reports of an earthquake. It seems likely that violent thunderstorm winds several miles offshore from Cleveland created a large wave that moved toward the shore. A similar explanation may apply to the 1942 North Coast wave, as lightning was observed offshore.