Next weekend is the Gales Storm Gathering in Marquette, MI. The joke has been the question of whether the event would be cancelled due to bad weather. Meaning sunny, flat calm, with Bluebirds singing and kids running around in shorts. We all hope for a healthy dose of nastiness and there are 'long boats on fast water' classes if it's too benign, but I'm not sure anyone is wishing for what came through on Thursday, a Great Lakes storm that was forecast but managed to outdo itself with its speed and intensity.
The best way to illustrate what went down over the 24 hour period is with NOAA's real time wave chart which is linked under the Lake Superior Trip Planning Tools to the right of this post. Along with the surface water temperature, near shore forecast, and a couple key weather stations, a person can get an accurate picture of what's going on around Gitchee Gumee. It can also be used for vicarious pleasure, to mentally take us to spots where we have been so we can fantasize about gigantic waves crashing on the beach or rocks. The first image above is at 6am on Thursday morning and then again around noon. From a flat calm the seas built over a half dozen hours to eleven footers rolling into the Keweenaw peninsula.
By mid afternoon things have escalated considerably. As the front moved from the northwest in a southeasterly direction the waves built. By 2pm the scope of the storm had increased and by 4pm there were fourteen footers hammering Copper Harbor and Manitou Island at the tip of the Keweenaw.
By dusk wave height and wind had almost doubled. Note the large swath of twenty foot plus waves (purple color) from the tip of the Keweenaw all the way down past Marquette and Munising. I'm not sure how long the storm lasted but by 6am Friday mornings things had moved south and calmed down with 'only' eleven footers on the Keweenaw and sixteen footers near Harvey, MI.
Lake Michigan did not escape either. All the parks in Door County including Rock Island and Peninsula State Parks, are closed due to wind and wave damage. Cyclists and walkers were swept off Chicago lakeshore paths, fortunately with no injuries, and the buoy in the middle of Lake Michigan registered twenty three footers at 5am. The lake, or lakes, are indeed the bosses. I sincerely hope the damage across the area was not too heavy and can be dealt with relatively easily and quickly. I also hope we are granted a taste of this as our intrepid foursome heads to Marquette next weekend, but I think I'll pass on the full five course meal. Soup, salad, and a light entree will be just fine, thank you.