Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
T'was the witch of November come stealin'.

Today is the 36th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald with the loss of all 29 on board just off Whitefish Point, Michigan on Lake Superior. The ship was sunk by a serious of misfortunes exasperated by a November Witch. These are strong Great Lakes gales that form over Colorado and bomb out (strengthen rapidly) over the central Great Lakes. They can produce heavy precipitation and hurricane force winds. They whip the lakes into a frenzy with 20 foot seas or higher. In the case of the November 10th, 1975 Witch, it was estimated wave heights were as much as 25 feet. The ship sank quickly and catastrophically, virtually disappearing off radar screens in a matter of seconds.

We have a similar but much weaker storm over the Great Lakes today with heavy snow across Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan overnight. Some locations have recorded a foot of heavy wet snow. The snow has spread into central northern Ontario where up to 20cm fell overnight in Wawa and points north. Gale warnings are posted for much of the western Great Lakes with winds up to 100km/h (60mph) possible. The first lake effect snow of the season is also occurring over western upper Michigan today.

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