High Water a Climate Hazard on Great Lakes

February 7, 2020

You thought is was just Florida. People having to shore up, or lose, their houses along Great Lakes shores in the Heartland.

AP:

MANISTEE, Mich. (AP) – High water levels are wreaking havoc in the Great Lakes. The five inland seas are bursting at the seams during the region’s wettest period in more than a century, which scientists say is likely connected to the warming climate. 

And no relief is in sight. Forecasters expect the lakes to remain high well into 2020. Homes and businesses are flooding, roads and sidewalks are crumbling and beaches are washing away. 

Homeowners and agencies are extending battered seawalls, constructing berms and piling stones and sandbags. Some are elevating houses or moving them farther inland. 

Less than a decade ago, the Great Lakes had the opposite problem: levels were at record lows. Experts say these abrupt swings may continue as global warming brings more extreme storms and droughts

New York Times:

MANISTEE, Mich. — Rita Alton has an unusual morning routine these days: Wake up. Get dressed. Go outside to see if her house is closer to tumbling down an 80-foot (24.4-meter) cliff into Lake Michigan.

When her father built the 1,000-square-foot (93-square-meter), brick bungalow in the early 1950s near Manistee, Michigan, more than acre of land lay between it and the drop-off overlooking the giant freshwater sea. But erosion has accelerated dramatically as the lake approaches its highest levels in recorded history, hurling powerful waves into the mostly clay bluff.

Now, the jagged clifftop is about eight feet from Alton’s back deck.

“It’s never been like this, never,” she said on a recent morning, peering down the snow-dusted hillside as bitter gusts churned surf along the shoreline below. “The destruction is just incredible.”

On New Year’s Eve, an unoccupied cottage near Muskegon, Michigan, plunged from an embankment to the water’s edge. Another down the coast was dismantled a month earlier to prevent the same fate.

Below, the extreme swings in midwest weather will continue as climate change worsens. My video of a few months ago explains what scientists are seeing in the persistence of rain events we have seen in the past year.

High water is wreaking havoc across the Great Lakes, which are bursting at the seams less than a decade after bottoming out. The sharp turnabout is fueled by the region’s wettest period in more than a century that scientists say is likely connected to the warming climate. No relief is in sight, as forecasters expect the lakes to remain high well into 2020 and perhaps longer.

The toll is extensive: homes and businesses flooded; roads and sidewalks crumbled; beaches washed away; parks were rendered unusable. Docks that boats previously couldn’t reach because the water was too shallow are now submerged.

At one point last year, ferry service was halted in the Lake Erie island community of Put-In-Bay after the vessels’ landing spot disappeared beneath the waves. On Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, portions of the only paved road washed away.

Homeowners and agencies are extending battered seawalls, constructing berms and piling stones and sandbags. Some are elevating houses or moving them farther inland. Even shanties in a historic Michigan fishing village dating to 1903 are being raised. The state’s environment department has issued more than 400 permits for such projects.

The situation is inspiring soul-searching over how to cope with a long-term challenge unique to this region. While communities along ocean coasts brace for rising seas, experts say the Great Lakes can now expect repeated, abrupt swings between extreme highs and lows.

2 Responses to “High Water a Climate Hazard on Great Lakes”

  1. gmrmt Says:

    I wonder if this will encourage speculation into plans to divert great lakes water to parched areas of the States again. The problem being that while there might be excess for a few years there will surely be a shortage for a few years after that and back and forth for the rest of the century.
    I can’t see billions of dollars being spent on a water diversion that will only produce for a few years each decade. There would be instant pressure to keep diverting even in low years so no sale to the regions bordering the lakes.


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