Author: Mary Knapp

We’ve heard many references to a tidal surge in conjunction with land falling hurricanes. Did you know that something similar can occur on inland lakes? The term for such an event is “Seiche”. A seiche is a temporary disturbance or oscillation in the water level of a lake or partially enclosed body of water. From French meaning to sway back and forth, a seiche is usually wind driven that results from high sustained winds from one direction that push the water level up at one end of the lake and make the level drop by a corresponding amount at the opposite end. On October 19, 1844 just such an event occurred on Lake Erie. Southwesterly winds were at hurricane force for five hours, driving lake waters into downtown Buffalo New York. 200 people drowned in the resulting floods. Similar, though less deadly, events have occurred as recently as 2003.

Erie Water levels 11/14/2003 (NOAA)

Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library