Most think of witches in the month of October, but on the shores of Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes, it is November that brings the frightful witch, or worse yet, several witches. A November Witch is a storm typical for the late fall where gale-force winds and pounding rain often mixed with snow and ice that rush across the Great Lakes like a screeching witch.
November Witches are only known to the Great Lakes where weather systems are like nowhere else in the world. The waters of Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes are still very warm in the late fall. When Canadian arctic air dips down to meet the warn air over the Great Lakes, a violent collision occurs. The cold air crashes with the warm air to produce nasty and severe storms that can bring sustained winds of 50 to 65 miles per hour with gusts up to 100 miles per hour and waves of 20 to 35 feet. The only storm more powerful than a November Witch is a tropical hurricane.
The most recent November Witch came on October 26, 2010 when she broke low pressure records over the Midwest and continental US. Meteorologists called it the biggest non-tropical cyclone (i.e., hurricane) ever recorded. There were no casualties.
Citizens of the Great Lake states refer to the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 as the most infamous November Witch. The screaming witch produced 60 mph winds with gusts to 100 mph and waves of 35 feet. Twenty-nine crew members died when the ship sunk in Lake Superior.
Watch a very moving video on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The 1975 November Witch that caused the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald was not the worst storm on record. The Witch of November 10, 1940, called the Armistice Day Storm brought snow and blizzard conditions. Five ships went down and 66 people died.
The November Witch of 1913 raged for many days, from November 7th to 10th. It was called the White Hurricane because snow produced blizzard conditions. Nineteen ships were destroyed, 19 ships were stranded and 250 people lost their lives.
Watch a video on the 1913 White Hurricane.
Will there be a November Witch in 2011?
Blog by Ileana Habsburg-Snyder