Gales of November came early on Lake Michigan
OMG! (Text-speak for Oh, my God!)
I don’t text much but in this case this was certainly an OMG moment. I watch the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Lake Michigan weather buoy read-outs almost every day during the fishing season. The South Lake Buoy (Station 45007) is only about 50 miles or so from the area I normally fish and when dealing with weather and weather patterns, 50 miles is hometown news.
So on Oct. 31, regardless that my Lake Michigan boat was stowed safely away for the winter, when I heard the strong wind warnings, the lake snow forecasts, high wave predictions on the general media, I clicked up the Station 45007 to see if it was still deployed and what the conditions were out there.
I’d never seen anything like this.
I’ve come home from a day on the lake dozens of times knowing what the actual wind and waves were like, first hand. Then I’d compare my on-the-spot observations with the mid-lake buoy reports for the time I was out there.
The wind conditions were usually spot on with my “guesstimation” of how strong the winds were blowing. The wave conditions never align. My conclusion is the buoy doesn’t measure wave heights from the bottom of the trough to the peak of the wave, it’s more like the buoy measures from mean lake level to the peak of the waves.
There are probably “scientific” reasons for doing it this way, but if you are out on the lake, expecting two-foot waves, as measured by the buoy, and are really in four-foot waves, measured from trough to peak, that’s a big difference.
So when I was looking at the weather buoy info for Oct. 31, 2014 the numbers were darned scary. The wind speed showed the wind blowing from the north at 38.9 Knots (44.7 miles per hour). Gusts were 50.5 knots (58 mph). Another buoy at St. Joseph, Michigan recorded a gust at 67 miles per hour.
More importantly, the wave heights measured by Buoy 45007 showed the waves at 21.7 feet. I’ve never been out there to decide if the measured waves to actual wave heights (2 foot vs. 4 foot) is similar when the buoy registers waves of double digit heights; but if it does, that means 40-plus foot waves were blowing down the lake.
As the old lyrics by Gordon Lightfoot said, “…the gales of November came early.”
This was one day I was glad I wasn’t out there.