White Hurricane: Remembering the Great Lakes Storm of 1913

lake michigan furyThe Glen Arbor Sun has a great writeup on the strongest storm in Great Lakes history, the October Storm of 2010 with 60+ MPH winds, waves over 20′ in Lake Michigan and countless people without power.

While the storm boasted intense winds and rock-bottom low pressure, it pales in comparison to the deadliest storm ever experienced in the Great Lakes happened nearly 100 years ago. Known as the “Freshwater Fury” or the “White Hurricane”, it was a blizzard packing  hurricane-force winds that ravaged the Great Lakes November 7-10, 1913. With the sinking of 19 ships, the stranding of another 19 and a death toll of at least 250, it remains the deadliest and most destructive natural disaster in Great Lakes history.

This excellent article on the weather science behind the 1913 storm from NOAA Weather Historian William R. Deedler features a report from the Lake Carriers Association:

“No lake master can recall in all his experience a storm of such unprecedented violence with such rapid changes in the direction of the wind and its gusts of such fearful speed! Storms ordinarily of that velocity do not last over four or five hours, but this storm raged for sixteen hours continuously at an average velocity of sixty miles per hour, with frequent spurts of seventy and over.

Obviously, with a wind of such long duration, the seas that were made were such that the lakes are not ordinarily acquainted with. The testimony of masters is that the waves were at least 35 feet high and followed each other in quick succession, three waves ordinarily coming one right after the other.

Read more about this storm and see a slideshow of the damage and video of the ships that were lost in Freshwater Fury: The Great Storm of 1913 on Absolute Michigan.

Photo credit: lake michigan fury by farlane