Great Lakes Water Levels Remain High Despite Dry February

Even though the month of February wrapped up last week as one of the driest in recent memory, and precipitation was below average for a February, new record water levels were set on Lake Michigan and three other of the Great Lakes, and will continue to remain high heading into the spring of 2020.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, reports that despite a dry month of February across the Great Lakes basin, water levels on each of the Great Lakes remain very high going into the spring, with Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie all setting new monthly records for February 2020. The records were previously set on Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron in 1986, and in 1987 on Lake Erie.

The Army Corps says that although 2020 started with wetter conditions in January, February was a fairly dry month for the Great Lakes basin with precipitation below average throughout the region. Also, a few cold air outbreaks during the month led to increased evaporation.

Late winter and spring are usually periods of seasonal rise on all of the Great Lakes due to increased rainfall and runoff. Water levels typically peak in the summer or early fall. Significant erosion continues in many locations as water levels remain extremely high. The Corps report reminds that strong storm systems and resulting large waves have led to substantial erosion along much of the Great Lakes coastline.

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John Allis is Chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office for the Detroit District of the Army Corps. He says, “After months of generally wet conditions, February was finally drier across most of the Great Lakes,” noting, “However levels remain above or near record highs for this time of year, and we expect impacts to those along the coastline to increase as water levels now begin rising towards their seasonal peaks.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers urges those impacted by the high water levels in 2019 to prepare for similar or higher levels in 2020. The most recent six-month forecast of Great Lakes water levels still forecasts that water levels could peak very near last year’s record levels.

The Detroit District monitors and forecasts Great Lakes’ water levels and provides the data and analysis on their website found online at:

During response operations, Detroit District, Emergency Management Office conducts emergency operations to save lives and protect specific properties (public/ facilities or services,) which includes providing technical support and direct support during flood operations.

Assistance is supplemental to local and state efforts and normally at the request of the state’s governor or local municipality.

In addition, citizens of Indiana and Michigan may decide to work on personal construction projects to alleviate erosion or flooding, which could potentially impact the nation’s rivers, streams, wetlands and other aquatic resources that may require a permit from the Corps of Engineers’ Regulatory Office.

To find more information about Great Lakes high water, emergency management and the permit process you can visit online at the link below:

That link includes information about how to protect property and investments along the coast and related Corps programs and authorities.

The photo of St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse accompanying this story on Moody on the Market is courtesy of professional photographer Molly Pate from Berrien Springs.