Storm Approaches


Eagle Harbor Web

An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

Winter Storm Approaches

The Week's Weather Journal.

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

The Week Of September 28th


Rarely is the air you breath more refreshing, more exhilarating, than the air you encounter as you exit a hospital after an extended stay. Such was the case today as I departed Marquette General and headed for the Harbor. A very strong westerly wind bore the cool, pure lake air, scented with the rich auroma of autumn in the north woodlands. I stopped briefly in the warming sun, startled for a moment by the contrast of the bright colors in nearby trees with the sterile white that had been my visual palette for the preceding five days. A tear welled in my eye...what a joy to experience the fullness of life. How fragile and precious life is


A full scale gale is in progress. Offshore weather buoys are recording winds in excess of 35 knots and cresting seas of over ten feet. The dancing Harbor entry buoy disappears in the wave troughs. My sailboat, PEREGRINE, tugs mightly at her hopefully secure mooring off the beach. Abby and I are snug in our camp, savoring a warm and noisy fireplace fire. The fall colors are at or near their peak and although muted by the shadow of dark storm clouds and driving rain, the reds and yellows of trees up the hill will not be denied their moment of dazing splendor. An intended quick trip to Mohawk for bread and milk (the Harbor store is closed), is wonderfully slowed by breathtaking vistas along the road, especially along M-26 between Eagle River and Phoenix and along the Cliff Road. The trees near shore are yet to join the show. Don't you wish you were here!


The gale begins to abate and wind and waves veer to the north, bringing clearing sky, cooler temperatures and big rollers through the Harbor entry. PEREGRINE's 55 foot high mast top swings across a mighty arc as waves ricocheting from the hard south shore roll her beam to beam. A neighbor says he gets seasick just watching her laboring. I never worry about something going unnoticed on the boat.The whole town seems to have "adopted " her, keeping a wary eye on her as she rides at anchor off the beach awaiting her owner's overdue attention. All but the annual migration of color watchers stay in camp as cold drizzle prevails. The "see it from the car" folk's are not deterred however. The roads are summer busy. Sure hope they encounter some sun before their three days are up!


The big lake and I are soul brothers. At times I feel a bonding with what is for much of the year my constant companion. Her many and oft changing moods are seemingly reflected in my daily life. Today the tumult of waters driven to fury by this past week's gale subsided. The lake is now at peace, barely shimmering at its surface basks in the warming sun, with only a soft gentle rolling to evidence its beating heart. Those of us who live on the lake shore and sail its waters are witness to many such abrupt changes in its moods, but they are always a source of wonder. I sense its at peace George, the tumult, the apprehension, the uncertainity of your recent encounter with the fraility of body is past. Pause, reflect, enjoy. More storm tossed days will come, but they too shall subside. I listen...and learn.


A glorious day! A warming sun, gentle southerly, yet cool, breeze, fabulous color. A day to be in the woods with your dog ....and that's just what I did. We meandered along the Harbor cross country ski trail. It snakes through "the pinery", the "soft country" just inland from M-26 between Lake Eliza and the Copper Falls stamp sands. Bright leaves float down to their winter rest among the thousands of acorns scattered over the soft brown trail; ferns and thimbleberry yellow and brown against a backdrop of wine red sumac; the sweet smell and soft greens of pine, cedar and spruce are restored to their sensory dominance as the summer competition crumbles away; dry bogs crunch underfoot; chipmunks and squirrels scurry about with Abby in restless, but hopeless, pursuit; I tire rapidly....but oh, what a day!


Unseasonably warm, and very windy. About 75 degrees in mid afternoon. White caps on the harbor kicked up by a 35 knot wind from the south. Could this exceptionally warm fall be the precursor to a warm, perhaps almost snow free winter? Could be, although the signals are mixed, especially about temperature. Canadians I met while sailing along the rugged Ontario shoreline noted the early departure of birds and said it was the sign of an early and harsh winter to come. At mid lake, I noticed that the lake never really warmed up. Surface temperatures of about 50 degrees were much cooler than last year. That usually means less lake affect warming of the cool Canadian air masses that are our wintertime visitors. Portends less snow, although it does suggest a colder winter. The record El Nino now moving onto the west coast will apparently have a major impact on weather systems in our mid continent area....producing a warm and dry winter. Who knows about the jet stream patterns. Last winter they shifted south from Febuary on, quickly ending what started out to be another near record snowfall year. All in all, the signs suggest a relatively snow free and probably warmer winter. That's why my entry in the Harbor Web '97-'98 Snowfall Forecast contest is near record Keweenaw lows. We'll see. Sometimes micro weather events along our lake shoreline are completely at odds with the macro regional and continental patterns.


Anyone with doubts about the economic impact of our fall color season should have been with me today. My annual car trek to Brockway and Copper Harbor to view the fall scenery was like a trip to Yellowstone in mid-July. A constant stream of cars, trucks, and motor homes clogged the roads. Yes clogged. I know it seems unlikely up here, but clogged they were. Available parking spots on the Brockway summit were a quarter mile away. Two to three hundred people milled about the summit precipices. The summit gift shop had a line of waiting people at the door. Copper Harbor was worse. Highway 41 and the "downtown" side streets were lined with parked cars. Every open gift shop and restaurant appeared to be jammed. Even the ever present waterfront geese had escaped to the open water. The trip back along the shore road was like driving through a series of parking lots. Every lake overlook and shoreline access (especially Hebrad and Esrey parks) was a car park. Eagle Harbor, even though traffic was heavy all day along M-26 (and up the lighthouse road alongside my camp), was spared the brunt of this cavalcade of wheeled color viewers and shoppers. Nobody stopped. Lets face it, we are more than a little off the beaten path, project a quiet community rather than a busy resort image, and have little to offer those in search of anything other than a moment of peace. Probably why we like it here!

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