White Hurricane: The Great Storm

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WHITE HURRICANE November gales are a curse on the Great Lakes. In 1835, a storm was said to have "swept the lakes clear of sail." Lake Erie was blasted by 60 mph winds on November 22 and 23, 1874. On Nov. 25, 1905 a November gale sank or stranded more than 16 ships. On Nov 11, 1940 (Armistice Day Storm) a storm wrecked 12 vessels.

The giant bulk carrier Edmund Fitzgerald sank during a November gale in 1975. The Great Lakes have nearly 5,000 recorded shipwrecks, beginning with Le Griffin in 1679 on Lake Michigan. In November, it is a common occurrence for two storms to converge over the Great Lakes. When this happens, one storm travels southeastward from Alberta; the other brings weather from the Rocky Mountains. This convergence is commonly referred to as a "November gale." One hundred years ago, in November, 1913, a blizzard with hurricane-force winds assaulted the Great Lakes. The storm produced 90-mph wind gusts, 35-foot waves and whiteout snow squalls. It was the deadliest and most destructive natural disaster ever to hit the area. Freighters disappeared without a trace.

A deceptive lull in the storm and the slow pace of weather reporting contributed to the storm's effect. The financial loss in vessels alone was nearly $5 million, or about $100 million in current value. Lost cargo totaled about 68,300 tons, included coal, iron ore, and grain, steel rails, lumber, and wheat. At least 255 sailors died, 44 on Lake Superior, 7 on Lake Michigan, 6 on Lake Erie and 178 on Lake Huron.

Two ships were lost on Lake Superior, 1 on Lake Michigan, 8 on Lake Huron (3 of them were Canadian vessels), and 1 on Lake Erie. ...

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...in Toronto, where he read about his "death." Thinking it would be a real good joke, he said nothing to his family and friends and walked in on his own funeral. The unidentified sailor was buried with four other unknown souls.

Shipping companies and shipbuilders worked with insurers and mariners for safer ship designs with greater stability and more longitudinal strength. The storm proved the Great Lake straight deckers were underpowered. Many complaints were directed toward the Weather Bureau of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This resulted in an increased effort to achieve more accurate weather forecasting and faster communication of storm warnings. End of article, Bio follows ROGER MEYER is a Michigan based writer and specializes in writing articles on the outdoors and World War II. His 200 published magazine articles have appeared in over 80 publications

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