Lake Michigan

Mary Van Valin's walkway to her Traverse City home is lined with heart-shaped stones she finds at the beach.
Mary Van Valin

People deal with anxiety in different ways ― some like to hike, some enjoy painting, while others might play music. For Traverse City resident Mary Van Valin, it's collecting heart-shaped stones on the shores of Lake Michigan. 


Robert Ruleau III

 

A dispute between Michigan's Department of Natural Resources and the commercial fishing industry is heading to court. 

 

The state announced it will prohibit fishing in water deeper than 80 feet and other restrictions commercial fishers say will mean the end of their livelihoods. 

Lake Michigan is lower than it was at this point last year, but still 31 inches above its long-term average.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

All five of the Great Lakes closed out 2020 at lower levels than they were a year ago. But according to new projections from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the upper lakes are still expected to remain high in 2021.


There have been 57 drownings in Lake Michigan in 2020, which is the most on record according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Fifty-seven people have drowned in Lake Michigan this year, making it the deadliest on record.


Several containment booms have been placed around a sunken barge in West Grand Traverse Bay. Efforts to refloat the vessel began Friday.
U.S. Coast Guard

Efforts to refloat a partially submerged barge in West Grand Traverse Bay started Friday. The barge sank November 30th, about 100 yards from shore.

The U.S. Coast Guard says the vessel still has 40 gallons of oil and diesel fuel on board but it’s not leaking into the water.

The Grand Haven lighthouse and waves get a good dose of what Todd and Brad Reed call, "magic light" during a November storm in 2015.
Todd and Brad Reed Photography

For most people, November isn’t a great time for a day at the beach. But Ludington photographers Todd and Brad Reed aren’t most people. They dream of capturing Lake Michigan at its gnarliest.


Mainville and Craymer (2005)

 

Normally, the waters of Lake Michigan sit around 580 feet


Stormclouds loom overhead as Ella Skrocki ventures out onto the Frankfort Pier on Tuesday. According to the National Weather Service, some waves on the lake crested around 13 feet.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

UPDATE: September 23, 2020 - 11:30am

Around 10 A.M. Wednesday morning, recovery crews located the body of 12-year-old Lane Frame.

Frame was swept off the pier and into Lake Michigan by a large wave on Monday.

The boy's body was found in 10 feet of water and turned over to the medical examiner.

 

Search and Rescue missions in the Great Lakes are up from last year by nearly 300.
U.S. Coast Guard

The pandemic, high water levels, and warm temperatures could mean more drownings on the Great Lakes. 

There have been 58 reported drownings so far this year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. 32 of those have occurred in Lake Michigan.

Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Water levels on the Great Lakes might finally start going down.

With the exception of Lake Superior, each of the Great Lakes have likely reached their peak water levels for the year, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


Joshua Stevens, NASA Earth Observatory

 

If you took a dip in Lake Michigan in early July you might have noticed the water felt pretty nice.

Lake Michigan waves crash onshore at a beach in Frankfort, Michigan. Lakes Michigan and Huron were almost three feet above the June water level average.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Water levels in the Great Lakes continue to remain high. 

Every month this year, Lakes Michigan and Huron have surpassed record-high water levels set in the 1980’s. In June, those lakes were nearly three feet above average. 


Peter Payette

Grand Traverse County residents are having a hard time coping with the Great Lakes’ near record high lake levels.

“We’re seeing unprecedented storms and high, high levels in the lakes and groundwater, and the combination is just causing a lot of issues unfortunately,” said Arthur Krueger, director of municipal utilities for Grand Traverse County.

One of these issues is regular flooding in basements of local homes and businesses. Some desperate residents have turned to illegal solutions.

"Sunset Station" in Arcadia Township has been devestated by high waters from Lake Michigan pounding its shoreline.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Water levels in the Great Lakes are really high right now. Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie are all breaking records and creating all sorts of problems for communities on their shores.

Piles of debris sit on shore near the Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

As if shoreline erosion wasn’t enough, communities and property owners on Lake Michigan are now dealing with another problem due to record high water levels — trash. Up and down the lake, large amounts of it are washing up on shore.

Employees for Anthony's Outdoor Services build a 400' long seawall in Manistee. Anthony Ganss, the owner, says they've been busy all winter constructing seawalls.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Update 3/25/20, 3:30pm: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, on Monday, March 23, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced temporary requirements “to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life” through April 13, 2020. Under that order, limited forms of construction are still permissible, including projects necessary “to maintain and improve the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences.” A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy says whether or not that includes shoreline construction “is dependent on the purpose and necessity of the shoreline work, and is case-specific.” He says contractors, their legal counsel and homeowners need to make that determination and if they are still unsure, contact the Governor’s office for more clarity.

 

At a time when many Michigan companies are slowing down due to the coronavirus pandemic, business is booming for contractors working along Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

 

They’re fighting a different crisis — trying to save people’s homes from extremely high water levels. But with so much demand, there’s little to stop unqualified contractors from jumping in on the action.


Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Ice cover on Lake Michigan is happening less and less, and that’s why Grand Traverse Bay hasn’t frozen this year. 

Jed Jaworski

Large waves and Lake Michigan’s record high water level are breaking down the barrier that protects the historic Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort.

Key parts of the structure are fractured and falling apart.

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.

10 most viewed stories in 2019 from IPR News

Dec 31, 2019
Interlochen Public Radio

IPR’s news team reported on hundreds of stories across the region in 2019, and the top 10 stories viewed are listed below:

 

Jerry Fetty / Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry

A road collapses into the water in Oceana County. A riverwalk disappears into the Manistee river channel. Lakeshore sidewalks buckle in Ludington.

Ron Wilson's summer cottage is dangerously close to falling into Lake Michigan. Wilson wants to lower water levels on Lake Michigan by letting more water out of the Chicago River, and reversing the flow of Long Lac and the Ogoki River in Ontario, Canada.
Dan Wanschura

On a cold and windy afternoon in Manistee, Ron Wilson trudged through snow to check on his shuttered cottage.

 

Not much changed since he was last there — which is good — because just a few feet of land separate the beach house from Lake Michigan.

“We once had a deck out here,” says Wilson, pointing behind the house. “But the storms in mid-October just took out all the beach in front of us.” 


Gary Langley, FAA certified sUAS pilot / Interlochen Public Radio

Lakeshore property owners fighting erosion due to high water levels are getting some help from the state. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is expediting the permitting process for sandbag use. 


Waves crash over the Frankfort Pier as Ella Skrocki heads out into a raucous Lake Michigan.
Beth Price / Beth Price Photography

Gale force winds fueled huge waves on the northern Great Lakes Tuesday with some on Lake Michigan topping out at 13 feet. For some residents in Michigan, the fall storm season is the time to hunker down — but for others it’s the perfect time to jump in the lake.


Robert Haase / Flickr

Gale warnings on the northern Great Lakes are in effect until late tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

Strong winds from the southeast will cause gusts that may exceed 40 miles per hour on the northern coast of Lake Michigan.

Most of Lake Superior is also under gale force winds advisory. 

The National Weather Service expects waves up to 19 feet.

They say there is an increased threat of lakeshore flooding in coastal areas throughout the weekend.

 

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