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July 4, 1969: Independence Day Flood

Link to enlarged image.The most devastating summer flooding in Ohio history struck north-central Ohio during the state’s stormiest Independence Day. Severe thunderstorms moved from Lake Erie into North Coast communities at about 8 PM on July 4 th, 1969. This line of storms became nearly stationary for eight hours from Toledo southeastward through Fremont, Norwalk, Ashland, and Wooster. Flooding, winds up to 100 mph, tornadoes, and lightning caused 41 deaths and injured over 500 people. More than 10,000 homes were damaged and 104 small businesses were destroyed. Severe weather developed over Lake Erie after 6 PM and moved southward toward the Ohio shore with strong winds, heavy rain, and intense lightning. Several people were killed by falling trees. Most of the hundreds of small pleasure boats anchored along Lake Erie made it safely to shore but U.S. Coast Guard ships rescued 100 boaters. Four boaters drowned. Most of the damage from the July Fourth storms resulted from extreme rainfall that fell overnight. Total rainfall was 10 to 14 inches from Ottawa County to Wayne County. On the flat, poorly drained land of Ottawa and Sandusky Counties, fields were flooded as far as the eye could see. Record floods were reached on the Huron River, the Vermilion River, and the Black River. Most sections of Ashland and Wayne Counties were flooded and isolated for two days after the flood. Killbuck Creek in Holmes County rose 20 feet to its highest level known.

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