A beneficial wildfire, shipwrecks, and inches of snow top the list of Michigan weather events on this day in history. From the National Weather Service archives here are the events that happened on October 20.
1868 - The wood schooner, 3-mast Hattie Johnson, while carrying coal, struck bottom on Goose Island Shoal, Les Cheneaux Islands, Straits of Mackinac in Lake Huron and sank during a gale. She was off the shoal and in port for rebuilding by Nov. 12.
1886 - The wood, passenger and package freight or recently converted to barge Butcher's Maid, was driven ashore in a gale at Porphyry Point, Ontario in northern Lake Superior, and broke up in waves shortly after. In another event, the wood schooner-barge, bulk freighter Eureka, while carrying iron ore, became separated from the 3-barge tow of the steamer Prentice and disappeared into the gale. Prentice waited in vain for her to sail into Whitefish Bay. Her masts were discovered sticking out of the lake on the 23rd 5 miles off Vermillion Point in Lake Superior. All 6 crew members perished.
1888 - The wood freighter City of Montreal, carrying 475 tons of building stone, was driven ashore on Michipicoten Island in Lake Superior in a heavy easterly gale and sank after riding the storm at anchor for two days. She was towing the barge Keewatin, which was not injured. Bound for Chicago from Vertist, Ont. Crew drifted three days in a lifeboat. One person perished. On the same day the wood schooner, 2-mast Duncan City, went ashore in a gale and wrecked on Summer Island off tip of Garden Peninsula, MI in Lake Michigan. She was reported pounded to pieces a short time later.
1898 - The wood, bulk freighter Henry Chisholm which was carrying 92,000 bushels of barley, had a gale throw the Chisholm on Rock of Ages reef near Isle Royale in Lake Superior, where she broke up by Nov 12. Her crew made it to shore in her lifeboats. She had been searching for her consort John Martin, which had been lost in a storm 3 days earlier.
1901 - The wood schooner, 2-mast C. Michelson, while carrying 20,000 board feet of lumber, was overwhelmed by a gale and driven ashore a few miles south of Escanaba, MI in the bay of Green Bay. Her crew reached the shore safely.
1905 - The wood schooner, 2-mast Glen Cuyler, while carrying lumber, was overwhelmed by a gale and foundered (well offshore) in Arthur Bay in the bay of Green Bay near Menominee, MI. Further east, the wood schooner D.P. Rhodes, while carrying coal, was in tow of steamer Joseph S. Fay, when she broke loose and was driven ashore near Cheboygan Pt., Straits of Mackinac in Lake Huron during a gale. Declared total loss, but she was later recovered. She was bound for Chicago.
1905 - The wood schooner-barge, 3-mast Galatea, while carrying light, was upbound in tow of the propeller L.L. Barth with her sister Nirvana, when she was driven ashore during a gale near Grand Marais, MI in Lake Superior. She was driven ashore so far that her crew could step off onto solid ground by clambering over her stern. Even though salvagers dug a 900 foot channel to her, she was unsalvageable and broke up the following winter. The Nirvana, wood schooner-barge, 3-mast, bulk freight was in tow of steamer L.L. Barth, when she was torn loose and driven aground, where she split in two fore to aft. She went to the bottom 1/4 mi offshore of Grand Marais, MI in Lake Superior after her crew had scrambled to safety, later washed up on the beach east of the piers.
1972 - A two day cold steak ended in Detroit, which brought record lows on the 19th with 22° and 20th with 19°. Lansing takes part in this cold streak with a record 16° on the 19th and 17° on the 20th.
1992 - One to three inches of snow blankets southwest Lower Michigan at the culmination of three days of wintry weather with lows around 30° and highs in the lower 40s. Daily snowfall records include 2.2” at Grand Rapids, 0.4” at Muskegon, 1.2” at Lansing, 1.7” at Alpena, 0.4” at Detroit, 1.8” at Flint, and 2.7” at Houghton Lake.
2000 - Unseasonably warm temperatures and moderate drought conditions after October 18 set the stage for wildfires in western Upper Michigan. The Carp River fire was discovered in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on October 20. Officials believe the wildfire resulted from lightning on the evening of October 7, followed by days of smouldering. After burning 1,220 acres, the fire was fully contained on October 22 by ground crews using hand tools. Daily monitoring indicated smouldering continuing through November 10. The fire was confined to the under story, in a wilderness area comprised of bogs and high, rocky outcrops, which lacked viable access points and posed no threat to people or private property. Officials consider this wildfire beneficial because it removed under story combustibles with minimal damage to mature trees and it provided research opportunities in ecosystems and natural disturbances.
2011 - A deep low pressure tracked through Detroit and lead to strong northeast winds gusting to 60 mph in and around Saginaw Bay. The winds started during the evening hours of the 19th and continued through overnight hours of the 20th. The prolonged nature of the very strong northeast winds pushed water from the Bay into the area rivers and streams including the Kawkawlin and Saginaw Rivers. Some low lying park areas were flooded in Bay County. Numerous trees and large branches were brought down across the northern Thumb and Tri-Cities regions, leading to power outages.