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Sunday, July 24, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Jean Godden

Seattle's Dubious Distinctions

Ah, another historic week in the land of minor disasters. The Seattle Mariners - like the Seattle SuperSonics - were roofed out.

In the future, roofed-out stats may appear right up there with stats on rained-out games.

But, in the larger sense, the fall of Kingdome roof tiles is yet another of the many Dubious Milestones in Puget Sound History. Brief highlights:

Nov. 13, 1851. Settlers land at Alki Point aboard the schooner Exact. They discover it's raining, and the makeshift cabin has - guess what? - a leaky roof. The pioneer women, rain dripping from their sunbonnets, break into tears.

Sometime in 1853. Doc Maynard lays out streets south of the Skid Road (Yesler), using a compass. Meanwhile, Arthur Denny and Carson Boren are busily platting streets to the north, running them parallel to the shoreline. Seattle is left forever cockeyed.

June 6, 1889. A glue pot boils over, and, 12 hours later, 25 blocks of Seattle lie in ruins. As with most Seattle disasters, there's no loss of life.

May 1891. President Benjamin Harrison begins speechifying outside the territorial university. Suddenly it starts to pour. The rain wilts Harrison's hat and cigar. He growls to an aide: "Take me out of here."

June 1, 1909. President William Howard Taft, here to open the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, is stung by a bee. He returns in 1911 to visit Mount Rainier, where he slips in the rain-soaked mud. Aides catch him before he plunges over a precipice.

1923. Seattle has an invasion of earwigs. So serious is the influx that Mayor E.J. "Doc" Brown creates a Bureau of Earwig Control. The bureau imports 6,000 toads to eat the earwigs. There's talk of supplying each household with its own earwig-eating toad.

Nov. 7, 1940. The 4-month-old Tacoma Narrows Bridge, known as Galloping Gertie, collapses in a high wind. Bad news for an insurance agent who pocketed a premium on the theory bridges never fail.

1957. A block-long portion of Ravenna Northeast slides into the Northeast trunk sewer.

Dec. 11, 1969. Several large panels blow off the Seafirst Building at 1001 Fourth Ave. No one is hurt. History repeats itself March 26, 1971, when seven more panels crash to the sidewalk.

Summer 1970. Federal Way Chevy dealer Dick Balch picks up a sledgehammer and demolishes a new car on a TV commercial.

Nov. 24, 1971. "D.B. Cooper" hijacks Northwest Airlines Flight 305, demands and receives $200,000 in $20 bills and four parachutes. He disappears during the flight.

June 11, 1978. The freighter Chavez, piloted by 80-something Capt. Rolf Neslund, rams the West Seattle drawbridge, leaving it stuck in the "up" position. (Neslund later disappears, and his wife, Ruth, is found guilty of murder.)

Oct. 2, 1983. The ferry Elwha hits a reef off Orcas Island, resulting in $250,000 damage. The accident occurs while skipper Billy Fittro is entertaining passenger Peggy Warrack, giving her a bayside tour of her Orcas Island home.

Sept. 28, 1991. During installation, Hammering Man, a 48-foot statue, slips out of a sling and clatters to the pavement. No one is hurt, but it takes a year to repair the bent behemoth.

Where else but in this Land of Dubious Milestones?

Jean Godden's column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the Local News section of The Times. Her phone is 464-8300.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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