Tuesday, November 5, 2013

100th Anniversary of the 'White Hurricane'

Think of a ship sinking during bad weather in the Great Lakes and the name that comes to mind is likely the 'Edmund Fitzgerald'. But 100 years ago this weekend a storm battered and bruised the fresh water shipping industry like never before...or since.

The Henry B. Smith was sunk on Lake Superior during the storm

It was dubbed the 'White Hurricane' and the 'Freshwater Fury' after the storm sunk 12 ships and grounded at least another 30 more on the Great Lakes. This was a time when meteorology was more of a 'wait and react' business compared to the days ahead forecasting provided today. Ships were also build using materials that struggled to fight against the bitter cold and punishing waves.

Location of the shipwrecks from the storm

The system was actually a combination of two weather makers. A large trough driving through the heart of the country picked up a low pressure center moving up the east coast. The two combined to 'bomb' a low through the Great Lakes. The intense pressure gradient created winds 60-80 mph.

While winds were a big impact to the shipping industry, snow was another big effect from the storm. Cleveland reported over 17" of snow in a 24 hour period. Smashing the 24-hour record. Lake effect snow was reported from Northern Michigan to Buffalo.

November 9th, 1913 morning weather map

The National Weather Service has provided a ton of information on the storm. Check it out here