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  • The Storm of October 26-27,   2010

The Storm of October 26-27, 2010

Mean Sea Level Pressure at the Storm's Peak

The 2010 storm season on the Great Lakes started early, when an intense low pressure system affected the Upper Great Lakes region on October 26-27. This low pressure tracked similarly to the November 10, 1998 storm. However, this storm was about 12 millibars deeper than the 1998 storm when it bottomed out at 955.2 MB near Bigfork, MN. In fact, all time pressure records were broken with this storm in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Significant damage was reported across the entire region, and commerce was effectively stopped for 2 to 3 days on the upper Great Lakes.

Due to the tight pressure gradient from the storm, and the unstable marine layer partially due to the unseasonably warm water temperatures on Lake Superior, winds gusted above storm force across all of Lake Superior, especially during the overnight hours of the 26th into the morning of the 27th. At the storm’s peak, the Rock of Ages CMAN station gusted to hurricane force (68 kt).  In addition, Stannard Rock reported a peak wind gust of 62 kt, and Grand Marais, MI reported a peak wind gust of 57 kt. Meanwhile, the western weather buoy (45006) broke several wind records with this storm, including highest sustained winds (42.8 kt) and highest wind gust (54.4 kt). These extreme wind speeds at the buoy are remarkable given that the wind instrumentation is only 16 feet above the water’s surface and was likely below the wave crest much of the time.  

In addition to the winds, the strong southwest winds created waves of up to 27 feet across northern Lake Superior, while the rest of Lake Superior saw waves of around 20 feet. In fact, the western buoy (45006) reported a maximum significant wave of 18.7 feet, which also ties the all time record wave height for that buoy. Due to fetch limitations at this buoy, this is likely close to the highest wave this buoy can achieve.

Peak Wind Gust and Maximum Wave Heights (by NWS DLH)

(Mean Sea Level Pressure and Wind Gusts Images created by the National Weather Service Duluth, MN)
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