November 7, 1913: “White Hurricane” strikes the Great Lakes, 38 vessels lost or stranded, 250 dead

This day in 1913 marks the start of one of the biggest storms sailors on the Great Lakes have ever experienced. The so-called “White Hurricane” (also called the “Big Blow” and the “Freshwater Fury”) was essentially a blizzard producing hurricane-force winds, technically considered an “extrapolated cyclone.” Between November 7 and 10 the storm produced 90 mph wind gusts, 35-foot waves, and whiteout snow squalls, beaching many large vessels. A lull in the storm on November 8 caused many to think the storm was over, and shipping traffic that had been delayed was resumed, sending more vessels out into the very teeth of the storm. Ports around the Great Lakes raised gale-warning flags, ignored by many ship captains. Cleveland was hit with 22 inches of snow. A brand-new $100,000 breakwater in Chicago was swept away. On Lake Superior, the Leafield was wrecked near Angus Island, taking 18 people down with it; the Henry B. Smith sank near Marquette, Michigan, with 25 lives lost. Neither vessel has ever been found. Stranded on Lake Superior were the Fred G. Harwell, the J. T. Hutchinson, the Major, the William Nittingham, the Scottish Hero, the Turret Chief, the L.S.  Waldo, and the passenger steamer Hamonic. In all, nineteen ships were destroyed, nineteen other stranded, and 250 people died.

Duluth News Tribune headlines three days after the 1913 White Hurricane began.