Ice boulders from jammed river devastate Ohio cemetery in eerie scene

Ice boulders from jammed river devastate Ohio cemetery in eerie scene
Two tall grave markers protrude from large chunks of ice piled in Riverside Cemetery in Maumee, Ohio, on March 16. (Dave Zapotosky / Associated Press)

It is not just the denizens of "Game of Thrones" who have reason to fear the ice. Residents around Toledo, Ohio, this week awoke to an invasion of ice boulders, some the size of small cars, that overflowed a once-frozen river then severely damaged a historic local cemetery and park lands.

To be sure, warm weather often brings such problems as flooding and moving ice especially after a winter as harsh as this year's. But no one was prepared for this level of damage, officials in the city of Maumee, which runs Riverside Cemetery, said on Tuesday.


"This is the worst I have seen it and I have been working for the city for 27 years," Joe Camp, the city director of public service told the Los Angeles Times. "In a word, it is devastation."

Riverside Cemetery dates from the mid-1800s and has about 2,000 graves, Camp said. He said between 1,700 to 1,800 headstones will need to be reset, a process that could take five months. Work probably can't even begin for another month because access is blocked by huge ice chunks, he said.

That means workers will have to rush to beat the beginning of the next snow season, he acknowledged.

"It is going to take most of the summer, considering you also have to replace the wrought iron fencing," he said. "I am very hopeful we can get it all done before next winter. That's a great goal for us for this year," he laughed.

In 1982, ice from the overflowing Maumee River also damaged the adjacent cemetery. But not on this scale, said Camp, describing an icy version of Stonehenge.

"You have 90% of the headstones toppled by the ice," Camp said. "You have probably half the cemetery covered with ice chunks a minimum of a foot to 18 inches thick and about 4 feet high."

He said they will use a computerized database to help match headstones to grave sites. No bodies are known to have been moved, he said.

"February was such as cold month, the ice got pretty thick," Camp said. "Last week or the past two weeks, the thaw came quicker than expected and the water underneath the ice kept pushing the ice up and up and up.

"The river kept backing up and the stuff from upstream had nowhere to go so the ice moved over the banks," he said.

The cemetery wasn't the only area damaged. The nearby park also sustained significant destruction, Jeff Baney, Wood County Park District assistant director, told The Times.

"Pretty much the road leading to the park is all washed out," he said. "All park amenities, kiosks, fences, gates, all gone. The soccer field, parking lot -- all scoured with nothing but asphalt and debris left."

"Today was our first day looking at the damage and assessing what to do after we got a front-loader in," Baney said. "I've been here 25 years and have never seen damage to this extent."

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