1916 Deadly Lake Erie Gales

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The deadliest winds known on Lake Erie took the lives of 58 sailors on four vessels on Friday evening, October 20, 1916. This wind had its origins as a strong hurricane that struck Alabama on October 18 and moved north to near Chicago by the 20th. Although no longer a hurricane, it remained a very strong low pressure storm center and gave several hours of winds of 60 to 75 mph over Lake Erie. Storm warnings had been issued Friday morning for the Great Lakes, but some vessels continued their work.

The James B. Colgate, a 302-foot steel whaleback, was steaming west from Buffalo with a load of coal when it went down off Long Point, Ontario, northeast of Ashtabula. Of the 26 men on board, only the skipper survived. In the same area, the 360-foot bulk freighter Merida was bound for Buffalo with a load of iron ore when it went down with the loss of 26 men. At the western end of Lake Erie, the 161-foot schooner D.L. Filer sank off Bar Point near the mouth of the Detroit River with the loss of 6 of the 7 men on board. On the barge Bell, a man was swept overboard and drowned off Bar Point. On shore, strong winds caused scattered damage to property, fruit crops, and communication across northern Ohio. An early snow fell as the storm departed Friday night.

See Also


  1. Schmidlin, Thomas W. and Schmidlin, Jeanne A. Thunder in the Heartland: A Chronicle of Outstanding Weather Events in Ohio. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1996.