Beware the Witch of November!

by WeatherFlow meteorologist Shea Gibson

Get ready Great Lakes for a possible “November Witch” to broom into the area by Thursday/Friday with a cauldron of warm air, cold air and violent gales! The name comes from intensifying Low pressures with a clashing of warm air, rain and storms ahead drawn up from the Gulf of Mexico…and cold Canadian air with heavy snow wrapping down around it. At times in the past, we have seen hurricane category force 1 and 2 winds generated over the Great Lakes as the two air masses collide. This is typically a more frequent event to see this time of the year; however, the effects of a La Nina pattern have kept warmer air up across the upper midwest until this week as we see the pattern begin to act more like the fall season.

The old saying goes: “Beware the Witch of November!”

The Witch of November phrase was used in the famous song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (happened in 1975) by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, which was a tribute to one of the most well-known Great Lakes shipwrecks known in that area.

Artistic rendition of an angry and cruel Lake Michigan.

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And the “pointy hat” of a “cruel witch” from Photographer Dave Sandford.

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S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald before it went down in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. All 29 of its crew perished. Between 1878 and 1987, 6,000 ships have been lost on the Great Lakes…with upwards of 25,000 individuals losing their lives over the last 300 years.

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Sadly, the National Weather Service Marquette, WI did issue fair warning ahead of their departure, but they went anyways.

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GFS model surface run showing a possible 987mb Low (very strong winds are typically generated at this pressure)

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GFS 500mb chart showing the strong mid level vorticity just west of the Great Lakes by Friday afternoon.
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ECMWF (EURO model showing agreement with lower pressure at 982mb’s.
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San Francisco State University 300mb (~30,000ft)  jet stream analysis showing an intense dip in the jet stream with strong Southerly flow aloft pushing over 100kts – with higher areas of streaking to the SW and the NW.
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As we head into Saturday, we see winds pick up across the Great Lakes:

Here is the GFS wind forecast for (Lake) Superior West Buoy topping 30mph – the CMC Canadian model (yellow line) reaches into the 40’s.
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And here is the forecast not too far away at Stannard Rock in Lake Superior as well:
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Even though this is still 5-6 days out with much that could change, it does serve as plenty of heads up to mariners up that way to keep an eye on developing conditions this week.

UPDATE 11/18/16: Looks like this storm verified with wind in excess of 50mph over Lake Superior and other locales where the wrap-around winds are really cranking up. Here is a video of the system and the winds + gusts.  Snow and blizzard conditions are on the N/NW/W/SW side of the system where cold air is wrapping into it… with white-out conditions for many locales.

Stay safe everyone!
Shea Gibson
WeatherFlow Meteorologist/Wind Forecaster
SE Region/East Coast/Tropics

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Sources for this blog: Our own Datascope viewer, Tropical Tidbits (Levi Cowan), WeatherBell Analytics, NWS Marquette, WI , SFSU.edu, Photographer Dave Sandford

Posted in Ontario- Simcoe, Ontario: Lake Erie, Ontario: Lake Ontario, Weather Blog