I chose to focus on Lake Erie at a time of year (mid-October through December) when the Great Lakes often act more like oceans than lakes. With the warm sunny beach days of summer behind, it’s some of autumn’s darkest, coldest, and windiest days that transform the Great Lakes into wickedly wild and treacherous bodies of water. Masses of colder arctic air pushing southward collide with the warmer air above the Lakes, creating the perfect conditions for massive wind storms. These conditions are often referred to as “The Gales of November” or “The Witch of November” (the later name derived from the countless number of ships and men lost at sea due to the extremely rough conditions).
I can best describe the scene like a giant washing machine. There is no pattern to the waves. They move and explode in unpredictable ways, often colliding into one another and creating spectacular explosions of water. With winds reaching speeds about 70 mph (Category 1 hurricane status), these powerful wind-generated waves often reach heights of 20 to 30 feet. Some have been recorded upwards of 35 feet, powerful and large enough to send ocean freighters to a watery grave at the bottom of the Lakes.