New record set today for the lowest pressure in a non-tropical storm in the mainland U.S. The massive storm system barreling across the central U.S. had a minimum central pressure of 28.24″ or 956 mb (equivalent to the minimum pressure of a Category 3 hurricane). This breaks the old record of 28.28″ (958 mb), set on Jan. 26, 1978, during the Blizzard of 1978 (aka the Cleveland Superbomb). This is also lower than the March 1993 Superstorm (aka “The Storm of the Century”), or the “Witch of November” storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975, or even the Columbus Day Storm of Oct. 1962.
The National Weather Service has predicted a strong low pressure system, or cyclone, to hit the Great Lakes on Tuesday and Wednesday. The central pressure could be as low as 959 millibars (mb) (28.35 in), and associated with strong winds and significant wave heights on the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes are no stranger to storms like this. The most notorious have hit in November and have included high winds, heavy snow, and treacherous waves.
The Great Lakes Storm of 1913 – occurred on November 6-11, 1913 and sank 19 ships and killed 250 people. The lowest pressure was 968 mb (28.35 in) with winds up to 90 mph and 35 foot waves;
The Armistice Day Storm of 1940 – occurred on November 10-12, 1940, and sank 5 ships and killed 154 people (many were duck hunters caught unprepared by the drastic change in weather). The lowest pressure was 967 mb (28.55 in) with 80 mph winds.
Edmund Fitzgerald Storm of 1975 – occurred on November 10-11, 1975, led to sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald with the loss of 29 men. The lowest pressure was 976 mb with winds in the 60-70 mph range with waves heights possibly up to 25 feet.
Two books on the 1913 storm are Freshwater Fury (Barcus 1960) and White Hurricane (Brown 2004). The Wikipedia article is here. The weather conditions are described here. If you do a search on “Great Lakes 1913 Storm” you will find many web links.
For the Armistice Day Storm of 1940, I am not aware of any specific books. I have seen some magazine articles on it over the years. The Wikipedia article is found here. Minnesota Public Radio gives a detailed account of the human toll here. This storm was different from the 1913 storm because many of the deaths occurred on land.
The Edmund Fitzgerald Storm of 1975 is probably the most widely known outside of the Great Lakes region. The loss of life was limited to the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Quite a few books and web sites are devoted to this storm. Here is a journal article that details the weather conditions of that storm.