Nov 9, 2013

The Great Lakes Storm of 1913

Watching the recent killer Typhoon Haiyan sweep through the Philippines reminds us all of nature's sudden and destructive powers.  For this week's What Happened When? feature, we mark the 100th anniversary of a blizzard with hurricane force winds that struck the Great Lakes Basin of the United States from November 7 through November 11, 1913.  The storm is known as the Great Lakes Storm of 1913.  To date, it remains the most destructive natural disaster to ever hit that region of the U.S.

By the time the Great Lakes Storm dissipated on November 11, it had killed over 250 people, decimated 19 cargo ships or other marine vessels and stranded 19 more, and destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars (in today's currency) of cargo such as coal, ore and grain.  The storm originated as the convergence of two major storm fronts fueled by the region's relatively warm waters, a seasonal process known as the "November gale" (pictured right).

Ultimately, the Great Lakes Storm became an extratropical cyclone with wind gusts of 90 mph, waves over 35 feet high, and whiteout snowsqualls. 

Analysis of the storm, its devastating effect on human life, structures, and the landscape led to major improvements in forecasting storms, responses to warnings, stronger construction, and better preparedness.

You can read much more about this giant storm at TheFreeDictionary, including specific facts detailing loss of life and property caused by the storm.

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