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November-December 2016

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November 7–11, 1913: The “White Hurricane”

Erie, and Ontario, and Huron, and Superior, and Michigan—possess an ocean-like expansiveness, with many of the ocean's noblest traits … they are swept by Borean and dismasting blasts as direful as any that lash the salted wave; they know what shipwrecks are, for out of sight of land, however inland, they have drowned full many a midnight ship with all its shrieking crew.

—Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

In his epic tale of adventure at sea, Herman Melville compares the waters of the Great Lakes to the vast expanses of ocean the whaling vessel Pequod sailed. His foreboding description of “those grand fresh-water seas of ours” calls to mind the many storms upon whose waves Great Lakes ships have met their peril—perhaps none so vividly as the storm of November 7–11, 1913, which has become known as the “White Hurricane.”       

Sean Potter is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist (CCM), Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (CBM), and science writer with an interest in weather history.       

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