This Week in Lehigh Valley History: Great Earthquake Stirs Nerves in 2011; Explosion of the Slate Belt distillery in 1921 (August 22-28)

Lehigh Valley then is a weekly series that recalls the historical titles of affiliate of The Express-Times and its predecessors 10, 25, 50 and 100 years ago. These stories were taken from microfilm at the Easton Area Public Library. Excerpts from the original text are shown here, edited for clarity and length.

This week in Lehigh Valley history: A 2011 earthquake forced workers along the East Coast to evacuate shaking buildings. While causing millions of dollars in damage elsewhere, the Lehigh Valley escaped serious trouble but had a lot of nerves rattled.

In 1996, Bangor opened a new high school football stadium in the Slate Belt. In 1971, Tropical Storm Doria swept across the coast causing trouble by inundating the Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas. And in 1921, two people were injured when a Stockertown distillery blew up.

It was then the Lehigh Valley.

The front page of The Express-Times from August 24, 2011 documented the confusion after a strong earthquake in Viriginia shook buildings here, prompting evacuations. The AP graph on the right shows the epicenter of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Inset photos by Sue Beyer, for The Express-Times.Microfilm Express-Times via Easton Area Public Library

August 24, 2011: An earthquake felt in the Lehigh Valley on Tuesday caused some panic but no injuries or significant structural damage, officials said.

The quake, which was centered in Mineral, Va … and occurred at 1:51 p.m., was a magnitude 5.9 quake, according to an official at the US Geological Survey headquarters.

… “There are nerves shaking. One or two broken windows, ”said Tom Nervine, director of emergency services for County Lehigh.

… “We immediately received a huge influx of calls to 911”, [Hunterdon County Emergency Coordinator Brayden Fahey] noted. “We had to expand to maximum capacity. “

… The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has performed precautionary inspections of bridges around the state. … The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission also announced that it has inspected all 20 bridges and related properties following the earthquake. …

The precaution extended to local municipal buildings. Town halls were evacuated in Easton and Bethlehem. …

Other businesses in the area, including the Crayola facilities in Forks Township and Hanover and the Fowler Family Southside Center at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, were also evacuated. …

Workers flocked from the 22-story headquarters building of PPL Corp. in Allentown, the highest in town, the Associated Press reported.

“I have been here for 30 years and have never felt anything like this,” PPL spokesperson Dan McCarthy said. “It was visibly shaking, things on my walls were shaking, which is a little disconcerting. “

… The earthquake, which rocked Washington, DC, was felt as far north as Rhode Island and as far south as Chapel Hill, NC, according to the Associated Press.

“My whole office shook and the lights all shook,” said Abbie Dubin-Rhodin, a 2007 Easton Area High School graduate and daughter of Tony Rhodin, deputy editor / operations of Express-Times, since. his company’s evacuation site at 30th Street and Broadway in New York City. “In our office, our whole building shook.

… Locally, tensions were also high for some.

Paul Zaboy said he was sitting at a table at his brother’s house in the Martins Creek section of Lower Mount Bethel Township when a corner cabinet of curiosities began to shake. Nothing toppled, but Zaboy said he heard glass objects in the cabinet shake as if someone was walking very heavily across the room.

Then he felt his chair ripple beneath him like small rollers. Zaboy said his brother felt the office chair he was sitting on moving.

“But he wasn’t really moving. The whole house was moving, ”Zaboy said of the tremor which lasted for about 6 seconds. “It was really, really creepy. I have never experienced anything like this. “

Lehigh Valley then August 26, 1996

The front page of the Express-Times of August 26, 1996 included this story about the new Bangor Memorial Park stadium and the local controversy leading up to its construction.Microfilm Express-Times via Easton Area Public Library

August 26, 1996: Bangor Memorial Park stadium stands like an oasis in the middle of a desert under construction.

The stadium is – as promised by the Borough – ready for the Bangor-area High School Slaters to face Salisbury High School in Friday night’s season opener.

… The stadium survived a difficult birth. Residents of Bangor and Upper Mount Bethel Township have argued over parentage of the stadium at school and district council meetings, as well as in court.

Some wanted a new stadium built on the School District’s Five Points campus in Upper Mount Bethel Township. Others wanted Memorial Park stadium to be renovated, as part of a $ 4 million overall park upgrade.

… The neighborhood has chosen to rent. In the long run, the cost was about the same – $ 1.5 million to purchase, or $ 1.5 million over 25 years to lease the renovated Memorial Park stadium. If the stadium had entered the campus, it would have ended the controversy.

Instead, the decision to hire means the same issues this time around will need to be addressed 25 years from now by some of the kids fighting Salisbury on the grill this week.

With the exception of a few sour grapes from some sore losers, tonight’s reveal should be a festival of accomplishments.

Lehigh Valley then August 28, 1971

The August 28, 1971 front page of The Easton Express reported on the fallout from Tropical Storm Doria, which caused problems in and around the Lehigh Valley. The AP graph to the right shows the storm’s track.Microfilm Express-Times via Easton Area Public Library

August 28, 1971: Lambertville was placed in a state of emergency early in the day when a gas leak was reported and the Hunterdon County community was plagued by a shortage of drinking water and flooding.

… [Twenty] the houses were evacuated. The estimated 50 people attended the homes of relatives and neighbors, police said.

The gas leak caused apprehension first due to the history of Lambertville gas explosions.

… The flooding did not come from the nearby Delaware River, but from heavy rain and Swan Creek, police said.

• The sky is clearing up after the heavy rains in Doria. The Easton-Phillipsburg area welcomed clear skies today after a day and a half of heavy rain, culminating in high winds that resulted in widespread power cuts.

Wind gusts to 48 miles per hour knocked down many trees and branches, damaging power lines.

The last – and worst – part of the storm was the result of Hurricane Doria moving north along the Atlantic coast early in the day, weather observers said.

… The entire storm produced 4.64 inches of rain at the National Weather Service station at Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton Airport.

Lehigh Valley Then, August 24, 1921

The front page of The Easton Express from August 24, 1921 contained this story of two people injured in an explosion at a distillery in the Stockertown area. One of the injured was a government official – some distilleries were allowed to remain open during prohibition under strict regulations.Microfilm Express-Times via Easton Area Public Library

24 August 1921: Herbert S. Young, [of Easton and an Internal Revenue chief], and Walter Holland, [of Bethlehem], who were painfully burned yesterday afternoon at the former Werkheiser whiskey distillery in Stockertown, reportedly had a good night’s sleep at Easton Hospital today. …

For over fifty years the distillery has been operated by LT Werkheiser. It is now managed, under government authorization, by the Reilly brothers, of Bethlehem, who manufacture alcohol. …

The explosion took place in a room on the second floor of the distillery. Young and Holland went to the chamber in an attempt to seal the valve of a tank that had contained alcohol and was believed to be empty. They had a candle that was used to melt the sealing wax. While applying the spark plug and wax to the valve, alcohol that had escaped from the tank caught fire and fumes in the room also ignited.

The clothes of the two men quickly ignited. Holland jumped out of the second story window to the floor, then rushed into the water in a cable tray near the distillery. Young hurtled down the stairs with his clothes on fire and, hearing the splash Holland made when he jumped into the water, he also ran to the runway and jumped into it. The quick action of the men in jumping into the stream kept them from being burnt to death.


August 15-21: The shocking murder of Richezza Williams in 1996; The worst Musikfest flood in 2011

August 8-14: Freemansburg policeman Robert Lasso, killed in 2011; Blaze guts Bar-Don bowling alley in 1971

From August 1 to August 7: Musikfest is moving south in 2011; The free Easton-P’burg bridge interrupts tolls in 1921

· July 25-31: The Eagles start the penultimate camp at Lehigh in 2011; residents at the 96 Olympics bombing

July 18-24: Controversy on the I-78 road in 1971; local connections to TWA flight 800 in 1996

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Steve Novak can be reached at [email protected].

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