The Great Hurricane

In 1913, one of the most devastating storms occurred in the Midwestern United States, referred as “The Big Blow”, “The Freshwater Fury”, or the “White Hurricane”. The storm was composed by blizzard with hurricane-force winds that devastated the Great Lakes Basin and the Canadian province of Ontario, from November 7 through November 10, 1913.

The storm reached its peak on November 9, overturning ships on four of the five Great Lakes, particularly Lake Huron. This storm called “The Great Lakes Storm” killed more than 235 people, destroyed 19 ships, and damaged 19 others. There was a huge financial loss in many aspects; the financial loss in vessels was nearly $100 million.

The storm was considered an extra tropical cyclone and originated as the collision of two major storm fronts, fueled by warm waters, which is a seasonal process called a “November gale”. The storm had 90 mph winds and waves over 35 feet high. These types of waves were shorter than the ordinary ones formed by gales. They happened with high frequency, with three waves in a row. The wind also blew in directions opposite to the waves below. This caused the storm to become cyclic, which is rarely seen on the Great Lakes.

The Northern Queen was one of those ships which was turned “end over end” and wound up heading south when the destination was north. A man looking out the window of another ship watched as somewhere on the lake the Argus “disintegrated”. A wave hit at its bow and another hit at its stern, which raised the ship and left the middle unsupported. It cracked in two, and was gone.

The impact that this storm had on engineering structures, landscape and human life led to  faster and better forecasting responses to storm warnings and watches as well as stronger and improved constructions.


– Jose Flores


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