National Weather Service
Wild About Weather
A satellite view of the October 26-27, 2010, extratropical cyclone that rocked the region.
Carol Christenson of the Duluth National Weather Service chose these storms to show how low-pressure systems track to produce the worst of the worst for Lake Superior.
November 23, 1905
The peak wind gust measured by the Weather Bureau was 70 mph. There were no mishaps; most ships stayed off the Lake. After this storm, several captains felt safe to sail despite forecasts for what became the Mataafa storm because erroneous conventional wisdom held that a powerful storm never followed on the heels of another.
November 28, 1905 (Mataafa Storm)
This storm wrecked or disabled 18 vessels on Lake Superior, including the tragic Mataafa, disabled against Duluth’s north pier then stranded. Nine crew members died from drowning or exposure. The Ira H. Owen disappeared with all 14 crew west of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Peak wind measured by the Weather Bureau in Duluth was 68 mph, but the wind gusted more than 60 mph in Duluth for 15 consecutive hours.
November 7, 1913 (White Hurricane)
Also called the “Big Blow” or the “Freshwater Fury,” this storm remains the deadliest, most destructive natural disaster in Great Lakes history. More than 250 people died because of the storm, 19 ships were wrecked and 19 others were stranded. On Lake Superior, the Leafield went down near Thunder Bay, killing all 18 crew members.
November 11, 1940 (Armistice Day Storm)
The day began fairly warm with temperatures in the 40s degrees Fahrenheit. As the day wore on, rain turned into blinding snow. Ten deaths on Lake Superior were blamed on the storm; 66 died on Lake Michigan and 46 died on land in Minnesota, most of them duck hunters caught unprepared.
November 10, 1975 (Edmund Fitzgerald Storm)
This storm sank the Edmund Fitzgerald near Whitefish Point, Michigan, with all crew lost. Winds in the afternoon, recorded by the Arthur M. Anderson behind the Fitzgerald, were 42 knots (48 mph) with waves ranging 12 to 16 feet. The storm became so bad, the Soo Locks closed. At 7 p.m., not long before the Fitz went missing, the Anderson was hit by two waves 25 feet or higher. Soon after the Fitz disappeared in a snow squall.
November 18, 1985 (Socrates Storm)
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Capt. Tom Mackay
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Capt. Tom Mackay
The strong winds of this system – 69 mph – and high waves beached the Greek vessel, Socrates, on Duluth’s Park Point for six days.
October 31 – November 3, 1991 (Halloween Blizzard)
Minnesota’s longest, largest storm contributed to November snow records for Two Harbors (51.5 inches) and Duluth (50.1 inches). Duluth got 28.9 inches in the blizzard, and 60-mph winds pushed drifts to 10 feet.
November 10, 1998
This intense storm hit Duluth’s then lowest recorded barometric pressure of 28.475 inches (964.3 millibars) and produced sustained gale-force winds of 55 mph.
October 26-27, 2010 (Extratropical Cyclone)
This storm blasted northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin with 50 mph winds. Duluth hit a new low pressure record of 28.35 in. (960.2 mb). Wind gusted to 65 mph on the Blatnik Bridge between Duluth and Superior. The satellite image above shows this storm.