High winds roiled Lake Superior, sending waves as high as 18-feet crashing into shore and spray bursting over the Grand Marais harbor lighthouse.
“We don’t usually see this in March,” said photographer Bryan Hansel who lives outside Grand Marais. “The last time probably was nine or 10 years ago.”
On Tuesday, most of the waves breaking against the Grand Marais shoreline were 12 to 15 feet high, allowing for dramatic photos as huge waves slammed into the harbor breakwater, shooting spray up and over the lighthouse — more than 50 feet above the lake.
Chalk up the wild waves to the perfect combination of high southwest winds blowing for a long time over a long stretch of open water, Hansel said. There was little or no ice to break the wind and waves.
“Normally, this time of year, Duluth would be frozen in all the way to Two Harbors,” he said. “And up by us, we would have floating chunks of ice on the lake. There was very little ice this year.”
Duluth and the North Shore was still blustery Thursday but nothing like Tuesday when wind gusts were clocked at 60 mph in Duluth, 62 mph in Silver Bay and 66 mph in Grand Marais, said Geoff Grochocinski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth.
“That’s really strong for not being tied to a thunderstorm,” he said. “I haven’t seen a wind event like this in quite some time.”
Winds like this are more common in the fall when the lake surface is warmer and cold air pours over the lake, whipping up stronger winds closer to the lake surface, Grochocinski said.
For this time of year, those gusts were incredible, Hansel said. And the sound of the big waves hitting the breakwater was impressive, he said.
“You would just hear this really low, bassy boom,” Hansel said. “You wouldn’t hear the wind. You wouldn’t hear the waves. … It was just this boom — this incredible sound.”