FRESH WATER FURY...
Over the weekend a significant storm blew up over Lake Michigan known as a fresh water fury. These tempests have a long history of disrupting shipping on the Great Lakes during the fall when they bring the dynamics of cold upper air troughs into the summer warmed waters of the lakes . When conditions are favorable, explosive development takes place and heavy wind swept rain (and snow) is the end result.
That’s exactly what happened in November of 1913, when an Arctic front swept into the Great Lakes region and collided with warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico. The combination gave birth to the storm that would later be known as “The White Hurricane” or “The Freshwater Fury” An added dimension were the warm waters of the Great Lakes themselves. The tremendous amounts of energy contained within all these elements would cause the greatest natural disaster to ever hit the Great Lakes. 95 mph winds, 35 foot waves, and heavy snow in some areas prompted the standing moniker of "White Hurricane". According to records, about 250 lives and 25 ships were lost to the storm. Many ships sunk, and several were also damaged beyond repair due to the inadequate forecasts of the day.
Waves breaking along the shore of Lake Michigan in the 1913 storm.
Surface map November 10, 1913 after the intense storm had exited the Great Lakes and entered Canada.
Along the shorelines of Lake Erie and Huron, blizzards stopped traffic and communication, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Cleveland received 22 inches (56 cm) of heavy snow combined with sustained winds of 62 mph (100 km/h) with gusts to 79 mph (127 km/h) and ice formation. There were four-foot (120 cm) snowdrifts around Lake Huron. Electricity supply was disrupted for several days across Michigan and Ontario, cutting off telephone and telegraph communications. A recently completed US$100,000 breakwater at Chicago, which was intended to protect the Lincoln Park basin from storms, was swept away in a few hours. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin, harbor lost its south breakwater and much of the surrounding South Park area that had been recently renovated.
The November 11 Plain Dealer described the aftermath: "Cleveland lay in white and mighty solitude, mute and deaf to the outside world, a city of lonesome snowiness, storm-swept from end to end, when the violence of the two-day blizzard lessened late yesterday afternoon." William H. Alexander, Cleveland's chief weather forecaster, commented,
Take it all in all—the depth of the snowfall, the tremendous wind, the amount of damage done and the total unpreparedness of the people—I think it is safe to say that the present storm is the worst experienced in Cleveland during the whole forty-three years the U.S. Weather Bureau has been established in the city.
Bodies washed ashore near Goderich, Ontario