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Lake Michigan's water is 17" higher than the same time last year

Dan Wanschura
Interlochen Public Radio


Lake Michigan’s water level is expected to reach a new record high for January, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The lake hasn’t been this high since 1986.

The Army Corps says the other Great Lakes are also on pace to be as high or higher than this time last year.

Their last monthly report shows Lake Michigan was 17 inches higher in December than it was December 2018. The Corps says the lake water has risen at least three inches since then.

Deanna Apps, a physical scientist at the Army Corps of Engineers office in Detroit, says fall storms stopped the already high water from evaporating.

“If we see similar rises as we have in the last couple of years we’re likely going to be at levels that are potentially higher than some of these records we saw last year,” she says.


Apps says in the spring significant amounts of rainfall and runoff cause the lakes to rise. She estimates water levels will remain high over the next six months.


National Weather Service meteorologist Sabrina Jauernic says in places where erosion is happening, the problem will get worse.

“Anytime we have even a little bit of wind onshore for any length of time (high water levels) will continue the erosion process in places that have been dealing with these problems over the past year and a half,” she says.

Jauernic says more water can spill into river channels that have outlets into the Great Lakes. If the wind is strong enough, she says that can cause flooding on river channel docks or parking lots, especially if they are in low lying areas.

IPR News reported that municipalities near the Lake Michigan shoreline are dealing with high water damages up into the millions.

Correction: A previous version of this story noted Lake Michigan’s high water record was in 1987. The correct year is 1986.

Taylor Wizner covers heath, tourism and other news for Interlochen Public Radio.