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40th Anniversary of Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

By Jesse Ferrell, Meteorologist/Community Director
11/10/2015, 9:10:01 AM

Forty years ago, a ship known as "The Edmund Fitzgerald" sank on Lake Superior during a massive storm. Twenty-nine people lost their lives, at the time the deadliest such accident, and still today the Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest ship to sink there.


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The event, memorialized by a terrible Top 40 sea shanty, was the largest such sinking in the 1,000-ship graveyard we call "Lake Superior." Here's what the weather map showed that day:


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Post-analysis weather research showed that the strong low pressure system caused winds to 48 knots (55 mph) produced waves of over 25 feet that night, at the location where it went down. That's about as big as waves theoretically can get on the lake, according to the NWS, though SSEC disagrees In any case, there could be rogue waves twice that height, and it's not out of the question that one of those could have sank the Edmund Fitzgerald. Wikipedia has a number of additional "theories."


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Today, ships would be warned not to travel during these conditions based on forecast model predictions for Lake Superior and observations from buoys (although the buoy at Whitefish Point, near where the ship went down, has not been transmitting since July). The NWS in Marquette, Michigan, re-released its forecast from that day for the anniversary:

You can read an actual newspaper about the disaster on Google:


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Now sing along with Gordon Lightfoot:

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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