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Amherstburg, inside mouth of Detroit




West Sister Island

Green Island



Black River.






Gauge maintained by Gen. Poe; showed extreme at 4 p.
m., and nearly the same at 11 a. m. to 5:30 p. m.
Light-keeper measured at noon, -6.2 feet, and thinks it
was about 0.6 to 1.0 foot lower in the afternoon.
Measured by writer at Adams street, 5 miles from bay.
Estimate at mouth of river, by appearance of banks.
Estimate by light-keeper at main crib in bay...
Light keeper walked dry-shod around the pier, where
depth at mean level is about 6 feet.

Light-keeper says 5 feet below usual; could have walked
around pier but for sea.

Inspector's estimate at pier, -2.8 feet. Crib light keeper
took sounding in boat house; sounding afterward at
known stage gives--

Light-keeper says at least 3 feet below ordinary; others
same; could walk half way to light-house; soundings

All say very low; light-keeper thinks 8 to 10 inches be-
low former level.

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6 p. m.

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Inspector's gauge: Noon, -0.1; 6 p. m., -1.3.
Inspector's gauge: Noon, 3.4; 4 p. m., +3.4..
Gauge reading furnished by Maj. Ruffner as extreme..

It is also to be noted that both Erie and Buffalo show a minimum gauge of -0.8 and -2.8, respectively, at 2 a. m., giving a range of 8.1 at Buffalo during this storm. It will further be noted in the weather record below that at Buffalo the wind was from the eastward until 2 a. m., and about the same at Erie.

A tracing accompanies this report showing a contour map of Lake Erie and a profile of the water-surface curve along its south shore.

During this storm the weather conditions, as courteously furnished me by the various observers, were as follows:

Toledo.-Light easterly winds on 13th, rain in evening. Wind backed to north and northwest about midnight, increasing in force, and blew from northwest continnonsly till 5 p. m., 15th, when it became variable and dropped to 6-mile velocity. Maximum velocity 38 miles northwest at 10:30 a. m., 14th; general velocity, 20 to 30 miles north west; minimum barometer, 28.46, 2 a. m., 14th.

Sandusky.-Easterly winds, 13th, light. Wind increased and backed to northeast in afternoon. High westerly winds from 2 p. m. to midnight, 14th, and continued till evening, 15th, when shifted to northerly.

Cleveland.-Barometer, midnight 13th, 28.33. At 7 p. m., 13th, increasing southeast wind had backed to northeast 27 miles. At 8 p. m. backed to northwest and increased to 32 miles; backed to southwest 35 miles and reached 46 miles west at 2 a. m., 14th, and 48 southwest at 2:40 p. m., 14th. Minimum barometer 28.20 at 2 a. m., 14th, then rose steadily. Gale continued on 15th from southwest and northwest 41 miles maximum at 2:50 p.m.

Eric.-Wind southeast forenoon of 13th backed to northeast in afternoon. Barometer fell rapidly. Windstorm began early in morning, maximum 34 miles southeast at 4:15. Another windstorm began at 8:30 p. m. and reached maximum of 42 southwest at 10:40 a. m., 14th. High wind began 5:30 a. m., velocity 30 to 35 miles, maximum 42 southwest. Abated after 2:30 p. m., 15th.

Buffalo.-From 5 p. m., 13th, to 2 a. m., 14th, barometer fell 1.05 reaching 27.89, the lowest known here. Wind shifted from northeast to southwest at 3 a. m. and blew a gale till after midnight, 14th, maximum 61 miles southwest at 4:10 p. m., 13th. Gale continued till 4 p. m., 15th.

This storm is noted by the Weather Bureau to have been a typical West India cyclone, developing east of the West Indies. It was one of the exceptional cases, when such a storm passes inland, the storm center being near Charleston on morning of 13th with 60-mile velocity, immediately west of Washington, evening of 13th, 38 to 48 miles velocity, thenco passing rapidly over Buffalo and being north of Lake Ontario on morning of 14th. A very steep gradient existed on morning of 14th over the whole country east of Missouri River, which was not dissipated until evening of 15th. Ordinarily all storms approach this region from the westward, so that the gale does not commence at east end of the lake quite as early as at west end. In this case, its whole fury struck Lake Erie over its entire length at once. Its


unusal course also produced the erratic phenomenon of a "backing" wind holding steadily from one direction (see Toledo record) for forty hours. Many disastrous wrecks occurred, and it is worthy of note that several of the worst were in the vicinity of the "Narrows," before mentioned, between Long Point and the American shore near Erie and Dunkirk. The steamers Dean Richmond and Wocokea and the schooners C. B. Benson and Riverside were all lost during this storm, and all in the same locality-at these "Narrows." Seven lives were lost with each of the schooners, which were considered to be seaworthy boats, as both were in the grain trade. Not a soul was saved from the Richmond and but three from the Wocokea.


It will be observed that while few of the heights are accurate, they carry sufficient reliability to warrant a general discussion of the matter in the light of this crude data, and the hope that it will lead to the obtaining of more definite knowledge and perhaps more sound conclusions. A discussion of other points of interest than those touched upon in this report, though tempting, is, I feel, hardly justified by the data now at hand.

It must also be noted that all data we have was recorded along the south shore of the lake and that the times of record are not coincident, though generally nearly so. Following now the profile of water and surface in connection with the above data, we find that in the West Basin the fall in the funnel-shaped end, containing Monroe and Toledo, was 6.8 feet; in the open it was 5.3 feet. In the main basin, immedi ately we pass the Island barrier, the fall was but 2.6 feet for all points until Cleve land is reached at the widest part of the lake. Here we find a fall of but 1.2 feet, and practically the same at Ashtabula. Between Ashtabula and Conneaut, a distance of 13 miles, we meet a solid wall of water 4.7 feet high, there having been a rise of 3.4 feet at Conneaut. At Erie the rise was 0.8 foot less than at Conneaut, and at Buffalo the highest point reached was 5.3 feet.

The question now at once arises, do these surface heights along the south shore correctly represent the heights of water in the lake? Assuming it to be so, that is, that the surface is level on each line normal to the shore, then the surplus water in the eastern end of the lake should be about equal to the deficiency in the west end. We find the line of no variation from the normal stage before and after the storm to have heen between Ashtabula and Conneaut. The area west of this line is approximately 7,000 square miles, that cast of it, 3,000 square miles. In order to make the two quantities equal, the proportion of fall to rise should be as 3 to 7. The record of fall being more numerous, covering larger territory and to a fair extent agreeing among themselves, we may assume a fall of 5.3 feet over 1,200 square miles, 2.6 feet over 1,800 square miles, 1.2 feet over 4,000 square miles, to equal à fall of 2.3 feet over 7,000 square miles; which would give, if our assumption is correct, an average rise of of 2.3 feet 5.4 over 3,000 square miles. This is not borne out by the data, as it is as large as the maximum height at Buffalo, and twice as large as that at Erie. To show its absurdity, we have really an average rise of perhaps 3.7 feet over 3,000 square miles, which leaves unaccounted for a body of water amounting to 16,000,000,000 of cubic feet, enough to supply the ordinary outflow of Niagara for 20 hours. This amount is beyond that already accounted for by the recorded rise at Buffalo, which by itself would scarcely double the outflow even while it lasted. When we consider the pressure which must have existed in connection with the change of elevation of 4.7 feet in 13 miles between Ashtabula and Conneaut, and consider also the immense volume of water displaced west of them and not found to the eastward, it suggests! the idea of an enormous eddy or swirl, more or less forcible, in that portion of the lake, the current setting down along the south shore and up along the Canadian i side. The observations, though crude, seem to show conclusively that the surface of the lake is not level on the normal lines, but is much higher on the north shore. This is borne out by the fact before mentioned that during the height of the gale there is invariably a reflex current into the west point of the lake, too strong to allow of the belief that it is caused by the gravity of the "piled up" water overcoming the force of the wind. It is a fact that most of the Lake Erie wrecks during a westerly gale are in the vicinity of the "Narrows." In an easterly gale, when these peculiar conditions do not exist, there is seldom a loss in that region.

Is it not possible that in these serious storms there are forces at work for destruetion with which we are not familiar, and that a proper study would give the means for combatting them successfully?

I beg leave to suggest that the line of thought here touched upon is important enough to warrant further and more accurate study on the basis of definite data. If the conditions here suggested do actually exist, it will be of vast importance to the navigation interests to know of them; and in order to gain the information for a more thorough and accurate discussion, I respectfully recommend that steps be taken to have all light-keepers on Lake Erie record the height of water three times

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daily, together with the wind directions and velocities, and to have special instructions issued that hey shall note any unusual conditions of weather or water. In any prolonged and severe storm, particularly those of April and October, they shall carefully note the extremes of water level and wind.

To be of any service in a further consideration of this subject, the Canadian authorities should be requested, through the proper channels, to cooperate fully. I am thoroughly impressed with the idea that such observations will bear fruit of some importance at very slight expense.

Very respectfully

Lieut. Col. JARED A. SMITH,

Assistant Engineer.

Corps of Engineers, U. S. A.



Milwaukee, Wis., July 6, 1894.


GENERAL: I have the honor to forward the accompanying plate on which is continued the water level curve on Lake Michigan for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1894, and to inclose a letter from Lieut. C. H. McKinstry, Corps of Engineers, giving the monthly mean water levels. during the year.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Chief of Engineers, U. S. A.


Major of Engineers.


Milwaukee, Wis., July 6, 1894.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith the water-level curves* for Lake Michigan for the year 1893-'94, from tridaily observations taken at Milwaukee, Wis., and Escanaba, Mich, with monthly reports of observers.* Observations at Milwaukee were taken continuously throughout the year; at Escanaba they were discontinued from December 17, 1893, to March 18, 1894.

Following are the monthly means (feet and decimals below plane of reference) from which the curves were plotted, the plane of reference being "high water of 1838."




July. Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May. June.

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The "reduction to the plane of reference" at Milwaukee is the zero of the gauge is 0.61 foot above the plane of reference. "reduction to the plane of reference" was determined in 1877

* Omitted.

0.61 foot; that is, At Escanaba the to be -0.76 foot

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