Great Lakes Storm of 1913

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Cover of the Detroit News, Nov. 13, 1913, detailing the Great Lakes Storm of 1913.
Convergence of two storm tracks to form what is called the "November gale," which was the cause of the Great Lakes Storm of 1913 , and the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald.

The Great Lakes Storm of 1913 (historically referred to as the "Big Blow", the "Freshwater Fury", and the "White Hurricane") was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds that devastated the Great Lakes Basin in the Midwestern United States and Southwestern Ontario, Canada, from November 7 to 10, 1913. The storm was most powerful on November 9, battering and overturning ships on four of the five Great Lakes, particularly Lake Huron.

The storm was the deadliest and most destructive natural disaster to hit the lakes in recorded history. More than 250 people were killed. Shipping was hard hit; 19 ships were destroyed, and 19 others were stranded. About $1 million of cargo weighing about 68,300 tons—including coal, iron ore, and grain—was lost. The storm impacted many cities including; Duluth, Minnesota - Chicago, Illinois and Cleveland, Ohio which received 22 in (56 cm) of snow combined with winds up to 79 mph (127 km/h) and was paralyzed for days.


  • Erie, and Ontario, and Huron, and Superior, and Michigan — possess an ocean-like expansiveness, with many of the ocean's noblest traits... they are swept by Borean and dismasting blasts as direful as any that lash the salted wave; they know what shipwrecks are, for out of sight of land, however inland, they have drowned full many a midnight ship with all its shrieking crew.

White Hurricane: A Great Lakes November Gale and America's Deadliest Maritime Disaster (2002)[edit]

Brown, David G. (2002). White Hurricane: A Great Lakes November Gale and America's Deadliest Maritime Disaster. International Marine / McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-138037-X.
  • I knew it was storming before I was told. The rooms, the corridors, everywhere within this building vibrates with the power of the storm outside. The storm waves, like sound waves or the waves of the wireless, will not be denied by stone walls and plate glass windows.
    • Helen Keller, trapped in a hotel during the Cleveland blizzard, after having completed a public lecture, p 168.
  • Dear wife and Children. We were left up here in Lake Michigan by McKinnon, captain James H. Martin tug, at anchor. He went away and never said goodbye or anything to us. Lost one man yesterday. We have been out in storm forty hours. Goodbye dear ones, I might see you in Heaven. Pray for me. / Chris K. / P.S. I felt so bad I had another man write for me. Goodbye forever.
    • A message found in a bottle 11 days after Plymouth disappeared, dictated by Chris Keenan, federal marshal in charge of the barge, p 191.
  • 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... It was unusual and unprecedented and it may be centuries before such a combination of forces may be experienced again.
    • An excerpt from Lake Carriers' Association report, 1913, p 243.

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