Video Vault: Ice jam breaks free, destroys & sends building down Chagrin River in 1994

EASTLAKE, Ohio - An intersecting set of circumstances led to a dramatic situation on the Chagrin River Jan. 28, 1994.

“It was a nightmare scenario,” said WEWS Chief Meteorologist Mark Johnson. “You had a snow pack holding two to three inches of water content, a frozen river and a sustained thaw.”

When the ice jam on the Chagrin River let go, WEWS news videographer Gary Abrahamsen was in place on the Lakeshore Blvd. Bridge over the river and got exclusive pictures of a building being carried away by the river and ice.

The beginning of Abrahamsen’s pictures show a business along the river bank being torn off its foundation and its electric connection yanked away.

The disintegrating building creaks and cracks as its heads for the bridge and when building meets bridge, the bridge wins.

On the north side of the bridge, what had been a building became sticks of wood.

At the 1:10 mark of our video, picnic tables and a mangled boat dock ram into the bridge. WEWS reporter David Christopher picks up from this point telling his story which ran in our 5 p.m. newscast that day.

Christopher says the river rose 4 to 5 feet very quickly -- he has pictures from inside a home as its residents scramble to get away from the rising water.

Eastlake police narrowly escaped the rising water, one officer telling Christopher, “It came up a foot in just seconds, we jumped in the car and took off and when we got out, we were dragging lumber behind us.”

Christopher’s story concludes with more flooding pictures and some aerials of the Chagrin River basin.

Maybe more scary than the 1994 ice jam, is the look back at gas prices at the waterlogged gas station, $1.06 for regular.

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