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The Great Lakes Hurricane

November 9, 2018

By Paul Homewood



On this day in 1913, the “Great Lakes Hurricane” hit Cleveland:


 Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 11, 1913.


The immense storm that ravaged the Great Lakes in early November 1913 has been called the “Great Lakes Hurricane, “ the “Ultimate Storm, “ and the “Big Blow.” It was unmatched for early winter severity and is one of the greatest winter storms in Cleveland’s history. Twelve commercial lake boats were lost with their entire crews on the Great Lakes and at least 235 sailors perished. Freezing rain and wet snow coated telegraph, telephone, and electric wires early in the storm and lines, poles, and trees were toppled by winds over 40 mph. A one-minute average wind of 79 mph was recorded at Cleveland. Precipitation fell for two days giving 22.2 inches of snow at Cleveland. Elsewhere, snowfall was 18-25 inches in eastern Ohio.

Shortages of milk and food developed when products were stranded on trains and trucks. Some farmers carried milk to dairies on horse-drawn sleds and families had to walk to the dairies for milk. Several large buildings in Cleveland collapsed under the weight of snow. The city of Cleveland was using 50 teams of horses and 300 men to clear snow from streetcar intersections. There was fear of a fire disaster in Cleveland. The number of horses pulling fire engines was increased from three to five and Boy Scouts were asked to clear snow from around fire hydrants.

  1. Broadlands permalink
    November 9, 2018 5:46 pm

    Does it seem fair to assume that there just wasn’t enough of our added CO2 in the atmosphere? Headed for a” new and improved” Ice Age. 🙂

  2. November 9, 2018 5:49 pm

    Midwest Blizzard of 1967 and 69 are forever etched in my mind. My advisor at college lived in Buffalo and he remembers great 1977 blizzard

    Each area has had “great storms” and will continue to!

    • dave permalink
      November 9, 2018 8:32 pm

      I was in Toronto at the time of the 1977 blizzard. It was cold and snowy in Toronto, but it was amazing to see how much worse it was in Buffalo, which is only some fifty miles away. People were stranded for days where-ever they could find a temporary haven. The intensity was the result of the “lake effect” which, if I remember rightly, means that cold Arctic air coming south picks up moisture from Lake Ontario and dumps it as snow on up-state NY.

  3. Patrick healy permalink
    November 9, 2018 6:10 pm

    Paul, you should not do this!
    Please look up that great troubadour Gordon Lightfoot singing the wreck of the Laker “Edmund Fitzgerald”
    It is particularly poignant for me as a very ancient Merchant Navy Radio Officer(or Sparks).
    Among my fondest memories of my time at sea in the nineteen sixties, was several trips up the Great Lakes all the way up to Toronto.
    Little did I realise in those days of yore that one of my heroes would be a fellow ‘sparks’ the great John Daly.
    Ah Mr Homewood, nostalgia ain’t wot it used to be!

  4. Ken Pollock permalink
    November 9, 2018 7:26 pm

    Thanks to Patrick Healy for the reference to Gordon Lightfoot – just listened to the whole song. I worked in Detroit in the summer of ’66 and remember hearing that the Great lakes cargo boats were made less strong than ocean going vessels, as they were only on the lakes. I guess they did not factor in enough for those November winds out of the west…

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      November 10, 2018 4:15 am

      Lakers vs. salties
      Nothing is that simple:

      The Laker “Edmund Fitzgerald” {Fitz} carried taconite iron ore from mines near Duluth, Minnesota, to iron works in Detroit, Toledo, and other Great Lakes ports. Thus, a so called ore-boat.
      An early version of Lightfoot’s song went with the cargo-hold flooding theory * LINK * , but was later changed at the urging/request of the sailor’s kin. {Someone else will have to check on that – if you care.}

      • Joho permalink
        November 10, 2018 2:14 pm

        Right! Due to construction costs, the locks and navigation channels on the St Lawrence Seaway of the 1950’s were not built big enough to accommodate the ever-increasing size of ocean freighters.

  5. Silver Dynamite permalink
    November 9, 2018 7:29 pm

    Look out Cleveland by The Band…(the storm is coming through)

  6. AZ1971 permalink
    November 9, 2018 7:39 pm

    If this is what alarmists want more of, then sure, let them bring it on. I’m sure the Big G upstairs is just waiting for commands from us down here.

  7. November 9, 2018 11:00 pm

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    Clearly the fault of all those Model T Fords!

  8. November 10, 2018 12:28 pm

    I remember the “Great Thanksgiving Snow of 1950.” We had gone to Michigan to spend Thanksgiving with friends from the WVU chemistry dept. who had moved there. We headed back to WV on Sunday. In Ohio, it began to snow hard. We had chains for the car which most OH drivers did not and were out for Sunday drives when the blizzard hit. We also had blankets and food in the car. Traffic came to a halt for miles on the country roads–no interstates then. There were a lot of tractor trailers loaded with new cars, etc. Finally people came to get folks from the cars to farmhouses. We (parents, 2 older brothers, and me just 6) spent the night on a farmhouse floor. We found that if you had chains, you could get through to Akron, OH. Some truckers were angry and were not going to allow us to pull around them to proceed. Other truckers got them into a little gas station lunch counter while we left. At an Akron motel, we learned we could get through the Uniontown, PA and they were holding traffic on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Finally, we got home Tuesday evening to find our long driveway with the ca. 3 feet of snow. My dad and brothers shoveled out the neighbor’s driveway enough to put our car there and we all mushed up to our house. It is where I live today. That was the only time when school was closed until I was in graduate school at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where the sight of a snowflake caused the vapors.

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