Afloat in the middle of the storm

Deanna Erickson is the director of the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension, Natural Resources Institute.

During the 2016 Environmental Protection Agency Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) meeting on Lake Superior, educators joined researchers through a joint professional development opportunity coordinated by Sea Grant.

Underway from Houghton, Michigan, lightning struck the radar system on this large Great Lakes research vessel, an early warning of the night to come. By nightfall, waves were cresting over the deck of the ship and lightning struck at a strobe light pace.

Watching the weather radar, the crew watched the storm spin over the region, in a manner similar to a hurricane. The vessel rocked wildly through the night. Meanwhile very nearby on shore, the marina at Saxon Harbor was blowing apart under the force of floodwaters. In the morning, the everyone onboard woke to dark chocolate milk-colored waters and post storm still winds.

Pulling in to the Washburn Marina, guest speakers arrived late and pale, shaken by the extreme damage to roads and infrastructure in their communities.

This story is excerpted from from the Great Lakes Working Group White Paper, Climate Change and Wisconsin’s Great Lakes Ecosystem (pdf)

Learn More

The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the authors and do not represent official policy or position of the University of Wisconsin-Madison or the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts.


In July of 2016, a group of educators and researchers aboard the EPA RV Lake Guardian were underway from Houghton, Michigan,to Washburn, Wisconsin. That night, an extreme storm struck the Northland, directly over the vessel. The story lakes place on Lake Superior, near Saxon Harbor and Chequamegon Bay in Wisconsin. The storm had impacts on the Mashkiziibi First Nation at the Bad River. Flooding blew out roads and separated the community from medical services and businesses in Ashland.