A minesweeper, Mormon “pirates”, and thundersnow top the list of Michigan weather events on this day in history. From the National Weather Service archives here are the events that happened on Nov. 24.
The wood brig, tow mast Robert Willis, while carrying 14,000 bushels of wheat in 1853, was bound Chicago for Buffalo, when she went missing in a gale on her final trip of the season and probably sank in the Inside Passage, near Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. Hopes and hoaxes kept relatives and friends of the crew certain that she was not lost until the following February. There was unconfirmed speculation at the time that the ship and her crew were waylaid by Mormon “pirates” from Beaver Island. All 10 crew members perished.
In 1872, the wood schooner Libby was torn from her dockside moorings during a gale. She was driven ashore and dashed to pieces off the old Northwester Hotel site, Marquette, Mich. in Lake Superior and was a total loss.
In 1880, the wood schooner, three mast E.C.L. was driven ashore at Sister Bay, near Death’s Door, Wisc. in the bay of Green Bay during a gale while anchored and wrecked. She was a total loss.
The wood, canaller Lake Erie, collided with the wood steamer Northern Queen in a fog and blizzard near Poverty Island in 1881, at the mouth of the bay of Green Bay. Quickly declared a total loss, but later recovered, though she does not appear on records again. Northern Queen picked up her crew and passengers and made it to port at Manistique, where the Northern Queen struck the pier heavily while docking and was wrecked while also carrying a cargo of corn. One crewman from the Erie died en route to shore from being scalded during the sinking.
After a blizzard in 1884, low temperatures dropped below zero degrees in parts of Michigan. The temperature was minus 10 degrees in Michigamme and negative 14 degrees in Ishpeming.
In 1912, the wood, passenger and package freight “coaster” South Shore, while carrying general freight and passengers, split her seams in a heavy gale. She was run to shore but sank just short and broke up in place seven miles west of Grand Marais, Mich. in Lake Superior. The Lifesaving Service from Grand Marais saved her nine member crew and four passengers.
The “Naravin”-class minesweeper Cerisoles, went missing during a gale on her delivery voyage across Lake Superior to the French Navy in 1918. In company of Inkermann, which was also lost, and Sebastopol of the same type. No wreckage or remains ever found. All 38 of her French crew perished. Later speculation was that she struck Superior Shoal, a pinnacle in the center of the lake that was uncharted until the 1940’s but many other sceneria are possible. She sank somewhere between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie in Lake Superior. Only Sebastopol made the Soo. The other two probably foundered in the gale, though no evidence was ever found.
In 1921, the wooden tug Arbutus, which was carrying illegal liquor, foundered in a gale 10 miles northeast of Grand Marais, Mich. in Lake Superior while being escorted to Grand Marais by the U.S. Revenue Cutter. The crew were under arrest for rum running. No lives were lost.
A massive storm moves through the northeast United States in 1950, producing blizzard conditions and record low pressure, and drawing extremely cold arctic air south across Michigan. The bitterly cold air results in record low temperatures to start the day. Grand Rapids and Muskegon both observe their earliest subzero readings. Grand Rapids dips to negative nine degrees and Muskegon minus eight. Other daily record cold readings for the day include Lansing with one degree below zero, Alpena with zero degrees, Detroit seven degrees, Flint five degrees, Houghton Lake negative 13 degrees, and Sault Ste. Marie three degrees. High temperatures for the day also set records for their icy readings. Grand Rapids only warms to 11 degrees, Muskegon 10 degrees, Lansing 10 degrees, Detroit 17 degrees, and Flint 15 degrees.
In 1990, the steel, bulk freight Kinsmen Independent ran aground in heavy weather south of Isle Royale in Lake Superior. At first she was thought to be a constructive total loss, but she was later refloated and repaired at a cost of 1.5 million dollars.
A strong low pressure system in 1997, moved east across Lake Superior on the twenty-second bringing cold air over the relatively warmer waters of Lake Superior. This produced heavy lake-effect snow in areas favored by northwest winds that lasted into the morning of the twenty-fourth. The heaviest snows occurred between Ironwood and the Keweenaw Peninsula and between Munising and Grand Marais. The highest snow total was Trimountain (10 miles southwest of Houghton) with 21.0 inches. Snow totals included: Melstrand 15.3 inches, Herman 12.0 inches, Ramsay 15.5 inches, Shingleton 14.0 inches, Baraga 11.5 inches, Munising 13.3 inches, Grand Marais 10.2 inches, Trimountain 21.0 inches, Phoenix 18.0 inches, Bergland 15.0 inches, Houghton 18.6 inches, Ontonagon 12.5 inches, and Hancock 18.4 inches.
In 2003, strong low pressure moved from New Mexico to Green Bay and then to James Bay in Ontario. Gulf of Mexico moisture moving over the warm front associated with this low brought snow to western and central Upper Michigan. Enough warm air moved into the Upper Peninsula to change the snow over to sleet then to freezing rain and drizzle. The combination of three to four inches of sleet and wet snow and one quarter inch of ice accumulation from freezing rain and drizzle shut down the county airport in Houghton and made roads in Northern Houghton and Keweenaw Counties extremely slick and hazardous. There were reports of power and telephone outages as the weight of the freezing and frozen precipitation broke off tree branches and brought down power and telephone lines.
A potent storm system lifted out of the Southern Plains and moved through the Central and Eastern Great Lakes region this particular Thanksgiving Eve in 2004. The precipitation started as rain, but changed to snow as the cold air filtered into the storm. Snowfall rates exceeded an inch per hour for a period, as thundersnow was reported. Due to the convective nature of the wet snow, snowfall accumulations varied significantly within and across the counties, generally ranging from three to ten inches. Gusty northeast winds of 30 to 40 mph further aggravated the situation, causing scattered power outages, and reducing visibilities to a quarter of a mile or less at times. Grand Rapids observed a daily record snowfall of 9.7 inches. Some of the other snowfall reports that were received included Poseyville (Midland county), 9.2 inches; Auburn (Bay county), 6.4 inches; seven miles west of Flint (Genesee county), 8.1 inches; Fairgrove (Tuscola county), 5.0 inches; Elba Township (Lapeer county), 5.7 inches; Howell (Livingston county), 5.5 inches; Saginaw (Saginaw county), 8.2 inches; Bennington (Shiawassee county), 6.5 inches.
In 2005, snowfall in advance of an Alberta Clipper system began early on the twenty-third and continued through the day before transitioning to lake effect snow in the afternoon and evening. Strong northwest winds gusting to 35 to 45 mph at times combined with the lake effect snow in the wake of the system to create blizzard or near-blizzard conditions across much of west and central Upper Michigan overnight and into Thanksgiving Day on the twenty-fourth. Winds even gusted as high as 55 mph at the Copper Harbor Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS). The blizzard conditions and snow-covered roads hampered holiday travel plans and caused numerous accidents throughout west and central Upper Michigan. Although winds decreased considerably, lake effect snow continued heavy at times through the twenty-fifth. Storm total snowfall exceeded a foot over many of the snow belts. The Houghton County Airport reported the most snowfall during the event measuring 16.5 inches.