Storm Surge Playing Havoc With Beaches and Shuts Down BL I-94 in SJ-BH

It’s not very often that you find an Interstate Business Loop barricaded off, but that is exactly what has happened today in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor due to the extreme weather and the ridiculous amount of water over the road most notably at the Business Loop Roundabout in front of Whirlpool Corporation’s Riverview Campus in downtown Benton Harbor.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has barricaded the M-63 approach to Benton Harbor between the St. Joseph Post Office and Courthouse Square, and also on the the approach to downtown Benton Harbor at the Riverview Campus and in front of Clifford’s Coffee Canal. Drivers are being diverted completely around that section of the roadway due to water over the road.

Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson says the road condition, which has been bad for several weeks due to extreme levels in the lakes, rivers and streams across the area, has been greatly exacerbated by today’s storm surges that have been pummeling beaches, piers and breakwaters from Grand Haven to New Buffalo.

“Water Over Road” caution signs have been in place for several weeks now in front of Whirlpool’s Riverview Campus and water has been present even on what have been otherwise sunny days, although those have been few and far between of late.

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Watson says that’s because there’s nowhere left for the water to go. He says the sanitary sewer systems and lift stations are being taxed beyond compare and suffering “intrusions” of water, but the situation specifically at the roundabout stems from the fact that there is nowhere left for the water to go. He points out, “If you look closely at the water levels in the Benton Harbor Ship Canal behind Clifford’s Coffee Canal and other businesses in that stretch of Main Street, the water levels are actually higher than the level of the roadbed in places there.”

He says that MDOT is responsible for the maintenance and control of that road because it is a state trunkline and an Interstate Business Loop for I-94.

Travelers through the roundabout have been baffled for weeks by the sheer volume of water over the road. Watson says his crews are doing everything that they can, “But, Mother Nature’s not being very nice to us right now!” Nevertheless, he says, “We keep fighting though!”

This morning’s storm system has caused alarm all along the Lake Michigan waterfront in Michigan’s Great Southwest, with a storm seich overtaking the beach and parking lot at New Buffalo, completely overwashing the the piers at South Haven, and creating chaos with beaches, waterfront sites and more.

Authorities are cautioning curious onlookers to stay away from piers and breakwaters to avoid being swept into the roiling waters, and for drivers to never drive through water over the road because you never know what’s beneath those moving waters.

Stay tuned.