Armistice Day Storm sweeps through area 81 years ago

On Nov. 11, 1940, the area, as well as much of the Midwest region, was hit with unusually fierce weather, causing much destruction and even some casualties. The storm's 1,000 mile-wide path swept from Kansas to Michigan, and has been labeled an extratropical cyclone blizzard.

The morning of Monday, Nov. 11 began in the Upper Midwest with unseasonably high temperatures, around 65 degrees. However, the nice conditions were soon overtaken by heavy rain, gale-force winds, and even tornadic activity. The temperatures dropped quickly, causing sleet, and then blizzard conditions, lasting into the next day.

The number of deaths in the Midwest attributed to the storm was 146, including 66 sailors on Lake Michigan with the sinking of three freighters and a couple smaller boats.

In the local area, accounts of damage were recorded in the Osceola County Herald in the Nov. 14 publication.

The article told of many farmers reporting barn doors blown in, as well as windows in barns and some houses.

"Luckily nobody was reported injured in this vicinity from flying glass or other debris," the article read.

Dr. V.J. McGrath was driving near the Olivers area near Chase, when he saw a telephone pole start to fall across the road in front of him. He applied his brakes and turned his car into a ditch, narrowly missing the pole, one account read. The wheels of the truck behind him became tangled in many strands of wire.

"A meat salesman, who regularly visits local merchants, reported he just managed to stop his truck at Grand Haven Monday to miss being struck by a large tree which fell across the street," the article continued.

Many trees were uprooted, and some snapped off, in people's farms and homes.

"A large poplar tree at the southeast corner of Matt Fahner's farm was uprooted and it tore through the many telephone wires running along the west side of U.S. 131 at that point. This completely isolated Reed City toward the south and cut off all telephone connections north out of Grand Rapids to Mackinaw City," the article stated.

Three and a half miles of phone lines were reported down between Reed City and Baldwin, impairing phone connections. Crews from Michigan Bell Company and Consumers Power Company were quick to repair damages.

"Officials of the two companies reported this storm the worst in half-a-century," the article continued.

Gales in Grand Rapids measured up to 67 miles per hour, the article said, without about five straight minutes at 53 mph, a record at that time. In west Michigan, at least three people were killed in the storm. A Reed City woman, Mrs. W.M. Brown broke her ankle when she fell on an icy walkway.

In Lake County, two trees were uprooted at Whalen Lake, each doing considerable damage to cottages owned by Mr. and Mrs. Durham and A.B. Fleischauer. Most of the damage to the Durham home was a new addition added the previous year.

A new steel roof on Bert Lee's barn in Chase Township which was placed on Monday before the storm, was mostly blown off by the time Tuesday rolled around. His silo roof blew off and the corn crib flattened.

The Reed City High School football team was defeated by Evart almost "entirely in adverse conditions," with "the rain-soaked fields adding to the freak plays."

Headlines also told of local people being "beached on a car ferry" in Ludington.

"The party of three left Manitowoc Monday morning and were due to arrive in Ludington at 2:30 p.m.. The boat was buffeted by extremely high fales and waves and the boat remained on the lake for 26 hours before getting inside the break water."

In the Nov. 21 issue of the Osceola County Herald, more damage from the storm was reported in Luther, with highway crews working all of Monday night to clear M-63 of trees uprooted in the storm. The L.A. McCrimmon garage was damaged by a falling branch. A window was blown in and doors twisted at the Chevrolet garage on State Street. A chicken coop on Floyd Maiville's farm was blown off the cement floor and overturned.

The conditions didn't approve much. The Saturday following the storm, the Luther senior class cooked a chicken supper for a community fundraiser, but the electricity failed, with no light and cooking facilities. They were able to scrounge up a gasoline stove and gas lamps, but community turnout was poor because of people avoiding the slippery, dark streets.