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Ice storm of 1928 is remembered

By Henry Timman • Mar 30, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Very often at this time of year when winter is ending and spring is trying to move in, we suffer nasty storms — especially ice storms. An example of this took place 90 years ago on this very date — March 30, 1928.

Actually, the storm commenced on the evening before, and at 4 a.m. the electric power was shut off in Norwalk due to the danger from high tension wires. By daybreak, the city was shut off from the outside world by downed telephone and telegraph wires. The downed wires also prevented any interurban service. The railroads were little affected, though, and in most cases could run on schedule.

Hundreds of linemen and relief workers showed up to repair damage and it was estimated that it might be 10 days to two weeks before all downed wires were repaired and the streets were cleared. During the storm, great amounts of ice accumulated on roofs before crashing to the ground. Ice-encrusted limbs broke off the trees, hitting houses in some cases and causing alarm in general. Many utility poles were bent or broken by the weight of the ice on the wires. In several spots around town, the electric wires touched sufficiently to catch fire.

This storm covered an area from west of Fremont east to Elyria and as far south as Mansfield. There was no damage in Cleveland or Wellington, but near Attica the roads in several places were covered with telephone poles and wires. An employee of the Reflector-Herald lived in Milan and managed to arrive for work in the morning but said he had to drive on the unpaved streets because the utility lines were mainly along the paved streets. Every so often he had to stop and, with pliers, cut away the phone lines which had become snarled in his auto’s wheels.

Surrounding towns such as Monroeville and Milan also were without electric power for a few days. In 1928, there was no large telephone company, either. Every community had its own company, such as North Fairfield, Clarksfield, Olena, Townsend and so on. These small companies suffered severely from the ice. It was reported at Clarksfield that every pole in their system was down and the “entire system appears a wreck.” A temporary bridge spaned the Vermilion River at Fitchville and the storm’s high water threatened it until ropes were strung from the bridge to nearby trees to hold it from being swept away.

Eventually the damage was cleared. Tree debris was hauled to what is now the Humane Society on Woodlawn Avenue and burned (openly, in the days before the EPA). While this was going on, crews were starting to replace 500 telephone poles between Norwalk and Sandusky. This didn’t include the rural telephone lines which were down.

In the evening after the storm, a Union service was planned at the North Fairfield Baptist Church, in which Julia Conger was to take part. She was of the Conger family we know so well who make Camp Conger possible. Julia’s father, Lewis, resolved to get her there, and since Walnut Road was not paved, he drove a buggy instead of attempting the trip by auto.

On the way home in the dark on Ohio 162, Mr. Conger heard an auto approaching and got over as far as he could in the tangle of downed telephone poles and wires. The collision ruined the buggy and threw the horse into the tangle of wires, but without injury to persons or beast. This was one of several accidents reported after the Great Ice Storm of 1928.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at Colonial Flower and Gift Shoppe at 7 W. Main St. in downtown Norwalk. These preserve my earlier columns in permanent book form.

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.


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