Video Vault: Fourth of July storm in 1969 wallops Cleveland

Rare film footage documents massive summer storm

CLEVELAND - Any of us living in the Cleveland area during the July 4, 1969 storm remember it – vividly. The lightning, the wind, the damage. Most us remember right where we were.

The vicious summer squall hit as we were readying to celebrate Fourth of July, which made the storm even more dangerous. Adding to the mayhem of the day, there was no warning for the storm.

Our family huddled in the basement listening to a lightning-crackled, static-filled AM radio broadcast for updates.

A story written by WEWS Chief Meteorologist Mark Johnson tells of the first signs of trouble coming from a ship on Lake Erie encountering 110 mph winds. Click here to read Mark's account of what weather phenomenon was the cause of the storm. (Mobile viewers can use this link: )

While trees were toppled, wires downed and homes damaged, often forgotten was the amount of flooding that accompanied the storm as it sat over the area drenching us.

The film in our player shows the Shoreway flooded, boats sunk or beached and one of our WEWS news cars stranded.

Daylight on July 5 gave light to the damage. There are shots of trees down, Illuminating Company crews working on wires, the Ohio National Guard aiding in clean up efforts and WEWS anchor John Hambrick doing an interview with a "power-less homeowner."

Flooding is Vermilion is next, followed by more damage in Lakewood and the power outage "war room" for the Illuminating Company. A few aerials of the shoreline as well as flooding south of Cleveland show the enormity of the storm.

Near the end of our footage, a spokesman for CEI tells us they've bought crews in from nearby states. A spokesman for the Cleveland office of the National Weather Service (NWS) says they have no way to predict a storm like that - remember this was long before Doppler technology was available.

We finish with NWS officials from Washington in town to investigate, a Coast Guard search for missing boaters and a missing Coast Guardsman and Cleveland crews trying to clean up the mess.

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