STRANGE GH: 1919 meteor strikes cause Ottawa county residents to flee homes

Aug 8, 2011


On Wednesday, Nov. 26, 1919, at 7:45 p.m., while Ottawa County families were settling in with thoughts of Thanksgiving Day, a pair of meteors momentarily lit up the dark sky before violently crashing into Lake Michigan. The impact of the heavenly missiles striking the water caused tremors sending frightened residents fleeing their homes into the streets.

According to A. W. Gunn, an attendant at the Grand Haven Lighthouse, the phenomenon appeared to be a “double meteor or falling star,” which struck the water “15 miles south of Grand Haven.” A huge fireball, followed by a second one smaller in size, exploded upon impact with the water’s surface.

“I thought it to be a falling star,” Gunn said. “The entire sky was at first lighted with a brilliant bluish light. In its rush downward at terrific speed I could clearly hear it whistle. When striking the water a flash of flame shot into the air and caused a great disturbance.”

One wire story reported the impact sent “a pillar of flames hundreds of feet into the air.” Simultaneously, a shock wave was emitted, which shook the nearby region, the Tribune reported.

The fireballs and explosions where witnessed by Michiganders at points in Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Benton Harbor, and as distant as Chicago, Indiana and Ohio. The shock waves created by the impact were felt as far away as South Bend, Ind.

“Citizens rushed from their homes when the vibrations were felt,” the Grand Haven Tribune reported.

The shock wave sent many Ottawa County and West Michigan residents running from their homes into the streets, and subsequent rumblings had authorities thinking an earthquake might have taken place.

Strangely, while many witnessed the fireball, no residents in the city of Grand Haven reported feeling an impact or tremors.

Many witnesses reported that the fireball and impact explosion flash turned the night into momentary daylight. An eyewitness from Muskegon stated the first meteor “appeared to be as large as the moon” by comparison in the sky.

Editions of the Grand Haven Tribune over the past 120 years chronicle many reports of people finding small meteors in and about the city, but to date, no shooting stars rival the pair of 1919. No meteors as large or as frightening have fallen from the skies over Grand Haven since.


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