A tornado, twenty foot waves and a schooner crew hailing an ore train 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 October 23.
1873 – The wood, bulk freight steambarge Geneva, while carrying wheat, was downbound. The violence of a gale damaged her stern pipe and bent her propeller shaft. The flailing blades cut a large hole in her stern counter and she went down by the stern 15 miles off Caribou Island in Lake Superior. Her crew evacuated in her small boat and made it to her tow, the barge Genoa. Geneva was one of the first bulkers with the classic Great Lakes fore and aft deckhouses.
1887 – A strong gale hit Marquette from the east and then switched to the north with waves building that afternoon. Hundreds of residents watched the waves break over the rocks at Lighthouse Point. Snow came down heavy enough combined with the strong wind that vessels in the harbor couldn’t be seen. By late evening, reports of shipwrecks began coming in. Two schooners George Sherman and Alva Bradley were wrecked in the strong gale. They both were travelling together from Whitefish Point and were making good time across southern Lake Superior. They eventually separated. The snow became heavy enough that the captain of the Sherman couldn’t see a boat length ahead of him. Captain Nelson Gifford of the Sherman realized he was too close to shore 12 miles east of Marquette at Shot Point, but it was too late and the Sherman was driven up hard against the submerged rocks of the point. The yawl was launched and as the crew was abandoning the ship, the main mast fell and grazed the lifeboat missing the 7 crew members. The captain was dashed against the rocks and knocked unconscious and was dragged to the shore. The crew stumbled into the woods and wandered around for hours before finding railroad tracks and hailed an ore train to take them to Marquette. The Bradley also hit submerged rocks near Shot Point, but was farther offshore than the Sherman was. The ship hit the rocks hard enough to jar its lifeboat loose which was lost. The Bradley then broke into two stranding the 10 men on it.
1929 – The steel package freighter Chicago, while carrying mixed freight, was caught in a gale and was driven ashore by waves and heavily damaged at Michipicoten Island in Lake Superior. She slid off the reef and sank in December during salvage operations.
1951 – 1.94 inches of precipitation fell in Flint. This is the record for the greatest amount of precipitation for the month of October in Flint.
1955 – A cold front moving into warm and humid air results in severe thunderstorms across southwest Lower Michigan. High winds and hail caused considerable damage to windows, roofs, automobiles and trees as a severe storm passed about 15 miles south of Grand Rapids.
1959 – A tornado struck near Evart on Osceola County around 4 PM, with only minor tree damage.
1963 – Michigan is in the midst of a spell of record warm weather. Lansing reaches 80° or higher on five consecutive days from the 22nd to the 26th.
1999 – A deep low pressure center north of Lake Superior moved slowly east with strong northwest winds blowing across Lake Superior and northern Upper Michigan. Winds of 30 to 40 knots with gusts to as high as 67 knots were reported. Numerous reports of local power and telephone outages caused by limbs and trees blown down across the utility lines in the counties along Lake Superior. Downed trees blocked roads near Eagle Harbor. 14 foot waves caused minor shoreline erosion in a few locations along the western shoreline of the Keweenaw Peninsula from Ontonagon to Copper Harbor. 20 foot waves pounded the shores of Lake Superior from east of Munising to Whitefish point with minor beach erosion and shoreline flooding in a few locations. $21,000 worth of property damage and $2000 worth of crop damage were done with this wind event.