Earthquakes are an infrequent occurrence here in Greater Cleveland, which is why locals are always shocked when they take place. Many are connected to a Precambrian fault, a remnant of the ancient world that’s buried deep beneath the earth’s surface. Other quakes can be attributed to seasonal or environmental triggers, but all are equally shocking to area residents. It’s no surprise that locals are always left in a state of shock. Since Ohio’s first recorded earthquake in 1776, there have only been around 200 recorded quakes. That’s a minuscule number, and it’s made even smaller when you consider that very few local quakes ever cause damage. Despite this, they leave a permanent mark on local memory. How many of these earthquakes do you remember?
1. A dinnertime disturbance, April, 1906
On April 20, 1906, Clevelanders were winding down from a long day. It was dinner time when Lake Erie’s southern shore shook violently. Doors slammed, and windows purportedly rattled… particularly in the area of Put-in-Bay. When all was said and done, this 2.9 magnitude quake was felt over a 400 square mile area.
2. Fear in the fall, September, 1928
It was September of 1928 when the ground shook. It shook again, and then again, and sounds similar to thunder left locals terrified. Purportedly, residents of East Cleveland rushed from their houses, fearing the worst. Doors were disturbed, but it seems there was minimal damage despite an affected area of 1500 square miles.
3. Shaking in the suburbs, June, 1929
June 10, 1929 started like any other late spring day. Before the day ended, however, locals were chattering about violent vibrations in the East Side suburbs. Homes shook, and the impact was classified as a magnitude 2.9 quake. However, some locals theorized that the shaking was triggered by a mysterious explosion.
4. Several states shake, March, 1943
Over 40,000 square miles were impacted by an earthquake on March 9, 1943. About 60 miles northeast of Cleveland, deep beneath Lake Erie or possibly within the landscape of central Lake County, a 4.7 magnitude earthquake began. Its reverberations were felt throughout Canada, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan. Locals complained of broken dishes, windows, and plaster.
5. A very merry seismic season, December, 1951
Residents in the eastern expanse of Cuyahoga County were shaken to the core in 1951 when December brought a hyper-local earthquake instead of Christmas cheer. The magnitude 2.9 quake caused no notable damage, but its sudden appearance at 2 a.m. startled slumbering locals. Eastlake and Euclid police reported no disturbances, but nearby authorities in Willoughby and Kirtland received more than 100 calls from concerned residents.
6. A series of summertime shocks, May and June, 1955
1955 was a
shocking year for area residents. On May 26, residents of the southern suburbs reported feeling tremors that shook walls and rattled doors and windows. The Aurora area reported hearing a rumbling noise. Some immediately blamed the occurrence on an explosion, but seismic experts believed it to be a 3.3 magnitude quake. Just over a month later on June 19, locals felt tremors yet again. Houses rattled, and that same rumbling sound was observed. This was a slightly weaker trembling, earning the event a 2.7 magnitude status.
7. A tremor in time, January, 1986
January 31, 1986 was a day just like any other... at least when area residents woke up. Just before noon, Northeast Ohio was struck by what would go down as one of the strongest earthquakes in state history. It occurred just miles away from the Perry nuclear power plant, and it broke windows and triggered changes in local water wells. This magnitude 5 earthquake has gone on to become the most studied earthquake in Ohio history.
8. An itty bitty quake, March, 1991
The John Carroll University Seismic Network surprised locals on March 12, 1991. They announced that their equipment had recorded an earthquake in the Aurora area. Despite their data, no area residents reported feeling the quake.
9. A shorefront shock, January, 2001
Ashtabula is one of the northeasternmost communities in the state, and many would also argue that it’s one of the loveliest. This community of around 20,000 has a rich history, but very little of that history is connected with earthquakes… until 1987, when an injection well caused a series of shallow, barely noticeable earthquakes. That changed in 2001, when a magnitude 4.5 earthquake shook the city. Roughly 50 homes were damaged in the event.
10. The fracking foreshock, March, 2014
Poland Township is a small community about 90 minutes outside of Cleveland. It has about 15,000 residents, a population that was shocked in March of 2014 when the ground shook beneath their feet. The largest was identified as a magnitude 3 quake, and the cause was identified easily; the culprit was fracking. The well was immediately shut down, as experts determined that the high-pressure injections made contact with an ancient fault beneath a layer of shale.
11. A summertime surprise, June, 2019
On June 10, 2019, locals were enjoying a morning just like any other. However, tremors were felt just before 11 a.m., and Clevelanders were shocked to learn that they had just experienced an earthquake. The epicenter was found to be under Lake Erie just north of the Eastlake area, impacting thousands of area residents. This magnitude 4.0 earthquake caused quite a buzz, but it is just one of hundreds of quakes that our region has experienced in the past few hundred years.
While earthquakes in Northeast Ohio may seem to be a rarity, they’re much more common than you might believe. Do you remember any of these events, or have you ever been caught in an earthquake in another state? Share your experience in the comments!