The Armistice Day Storm of 1940

November 10, 2012

Chipping Ice on the City of Flint, photo by Captain John Meissner

Wikipedia explains that the Armistice Day Blizzard struck November 11  (Armistice Day) and November 12, 1940. The intense early-season “Panhandle hook” winter storm cut a 1,000-mile-wide path through the middle of the country from Kansas to Michigan.  Carferries.com has a great article on The Armistice Day Storm of 1940 that begins:

The “storm” of November 11, 1940 was one of the worst storms in the recorded history of Lake Michigan. In all, the storm claimed 5 vessels, and 66 lives. The storm occurred on Armistice Day, which celebrated the end of World War I in 1918.

The storm hit late Monday afternoon, November 11th, with winds of hurricane proportions. The winds struck suddenly from the southwest at about 2:30 P.M. and were accompanied by drenching rain, which later changed to snow. The winds reached peak velocities of 75 miles per hour, the highest in local maritime history. Telephone and power lines were down by the hundreds around Mason County. Several local firms had “gaping” holes where roofs once were. Trees were uprooted, small buildings were overturned, and brick walls were toppled, causing at least 1 serious injury. Very few places escaped without damage. Ludington, on the morning of November 12th, appeared to be a deserted city.

The Pere Marquette carferry City of Flint 32, attempted to make the harbor but wound up on the beach about 300 yards from the shore. She was ordered by her relief captain, Jens Vevang, to be scuttled to avoid being pounded by the incoming seas. On November 12th, a breeches buoy was strung and 27 year old crewman Ernest Delotowski of 406 First Street, Ludington, was brought ashore. Delatowski made a good portion of the trip in the icy waters of Lake Michigan. As a precautionary measure, he was taken to Paulina Stearns Hospital and was released later that day. He said he carried a message with him, but it got lost in the water. Later the buoy was used to carry a message to the ship, and then crewman Luther Ryder of S. Washington Avenue (Ludington) was brought ashore.

You can read more including first-hand recollections of the storm and also see more photos taken by Captain John Meissner and also photos of the grounding and other wrecks as a result of the storm at carferries.com.

More shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.

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