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Outdoors: Storms of November

steam devil

"Just wait till November the old sailors say, it’s a terrible time of the year,” sang John Denver his 1982 song called "Storms of November," in which he described the storms on the Great Lakes.

So why, in November, do the legends live on . . . on the big lake, and but also on Lake Huron and Lake Michigan?

There's a danger when water and sky become one

And the fog makes you blind as can be.

The fog sometimes does more than make sailors blind.

Occasionally, and it’s usually in November, the “steam devils” form.

Understand that fog is just a low cloud—made of tiny water droplets.

And when very cold wind blows over relatively warmer water, steam fog forms.

The greater the difference in the water and air temperature, the greater the turbulence there will be in the air and water.

In times of ice-free water and cold strong wind, steam devils — whirlwinds of fog — can rise from the lake.

These are not common, but they are real, as real as the winds of November, which, come to think of it, came early again this year.

For the waters are driven by one straight from hell
And a fury takes over the sea
And the waves are like mountains, boy, mark my words well
The storms of November are all that is fearful to me.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.