GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The storm that is rolling through the central plains and the western Great Lakes is unprecedented for many reasons.
It is the first to trigger the Storm Prediction Center to issue a “moderate risk” for severe weather outlook for Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota in December, for example.
People with six inches of snow on the ground are now on alert for the potential for damaging wind gusts of 80 mph+ or long track tornadoes.
With the track of the low pressure center headed right for the Upper Peninsula, it is hard not to liken this storm to the one that took down the historic SS Edmund Fitzgerald over 45 years ago. The system that is moving through is technically stronger than the one that took that sunk the more than 700 feet freighter.
SS Edmund Fitzgerald Storm
Few Great Lakes shipwrecks hold more infamy than the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. The American Great Lakes Freighter sank in Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975. All 29 crew died in the wreck, which went down 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point.
High winds, otherwise known as the “Gales of November” are the reason the ship went down. Waves from the storm have been estimated to gust to 86 mph and produce waves on Lake Superior of 20 feet or larger.
What makes this week’s storm stronger?
Low pressure storm systems are often ranked on strength by looking at their central pressure. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. At it’s lowest, the storm system that sank the SS Edmund Fitzgerald had a pressure of 980 millibars. The center of the storm passed right over Lake Superior.
The storm that is rolling through the Midwest and Great Lakes Wednesday and Thursday is expected to have a low pressure reading of 975 millibars, five less than the 1975 storm.
As of Wednesday night, the current storm system has caused almost 500 storm reports, the vast majority of them wind-related, and 440 wind reports were counted by midnight with gusts of 60-85 mph in range. Waves over Lake Superior were initially forecast by the National Weather Service in Duluth, Minnesota to be as large as 34 feet in the open waters.
By central pressure alone, this storm will likely stand as technically “stronger” than the one that sank the SS Edmund Fitzgerald almost 50 years ago.