Huge Waves on Lake Michigan

October 21, 2011


Photographer: Neil Libby
Summary Author: Neil Libby; Jim Foster

During the Great Lake Michigan Storm on September 30, 2011, huge waves were observed at the southern end of the Lake. At about 4:00 a.m. local time, a 23 ft (7 m) monster was recorded at a lake buoy (hull # 45007) -- wind gusts reached 55 mph (89 km/h). This was the highest recorded wave at this buoy station since it was installed in 1981. I took the above photos showing massive waves engulfing the Tower Road pier in Winnetka, Illinois around noon on September 30. Buoy 45007 reported waves at this time of about 14 ft (4.3 m). Note the light pole and the two men on the pier for scale. During the storm, the southern shores of Lake Michigan experienced about a 2.5 ft (0.8 m) storm surge, which contributed to the flooding of many lake beaches. Winds were apparently strongest along the southernmost and eastern shores of Lake Michigan (in Indiana and Michigan), where gusts were likely more than 60 mph (97 km/h).