Later this week is the centennal of the Storm of 1913, also known as the White Hurricane or The Big Blow. It’s the worst Great Lakes maritime disaster ever, with a dozen ships and 250 lives lost. The storm lasted four days and wind gusts reached 90 miles per hour over the lakes.
We get a particular kind of storm in these parts in fall and winter months. A low pressure system tracks from the southern plains (Texas/Oklahoma) toward the northeast at the same time a cold front descends from the plains of the Dakotas and the Canadian prairies. If they meet between the Ohio Valley and the southern Great Lakes, things can get bad quickly if the low pressure system intensifies (as often happens) and the cold front is followed by an Arctic high pressure system (as often happens). There could be heavy rain or heavy snow, but the most dangerous part of this event is the wind, especially over the Great Lakes and on the adjoining shore.
This kind of severe storm doesn’t happen every year, but when it does is something to watch. There was one within the last few winters that had me refreshing the NWS Marquette observation and forecast pages constantly because winds were gusting to 70–80 mph. Down here we had mere 50 mph gusts. There was plenty of damage on shore from flooding and the winds themselves, though ships stayed safely in port (if the shipping season was even still in operation).
The link at the top from the National Weather Service’s Great Lakes Region has a thorough review of the 1913 storm, along with what has been done in the years since to improve forecasting and keep shipping interests safe.