Lake Michigan Water Level Update

Bill's Blog

Great Lakes water levels remain at or near late February record levels and that trend is expected to continue.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Superior

The water level of Lake Superior is down 4″ in the last month. That’s a significant drop and mostly due to the fact that temperatures are below freezing and precipitation falls as snow and stays on the ground rather than water moving into the rivers. There is now a deep snowpack around Lake Superior (snow depths Friday: 51″ Painesdale, 49″ Grand Marais, 37″ Munising, 36″ Marquette, 35″ Hancock) and that snow will eventually melt and get into the lake.

Lake Superior is at the same level as one year ago, but still 13″ above the average level for late February. It’s 2″ below the highest February level set in 1986.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Michigan-Huron

The water level of Lake Michigan-Huron is down 2″ in the last month, but still 15″ higher than one year ago. The lake is 37″ higher than the late February average and is 4″ higher than the record February level set in 1986.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Erie

The water level of Lake Erie is up 1″ in the last month and up 11″ in the last year. The lake is 36″ higher than the average February level and is 5″ higher than the previous record February level set in 1987.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake Ontario

The water level of Lake Ontario is down 2″ in the last month, up 4″ year-to-year and is now 19″ above the February average level. The lake is still 7″ below the record February level set in 1952.

Graph of the Water Level of Lake St. Clair

The water level of Lake St. Clair is up 1″ in the last month and up 11″ in the last year. The lake is now 40″ above the February average level and is even with the record February level set in 1986.

Pic. from the U.S. Coast Guard Ship Katmai Bay near the Soo Locks Feb. 2020

All the rivers that connect the Great Lakes have well above average flow. The Detroit River at Detroit has a flow of 261,000 cubic feet per second, compared to an average flow of 176 cfs. That’s 148% of average flow and that’s a lot of water passing by.

South Haven webcam – mouth of the Black River

The picture above is from 1:30 pm at South Haven, Michigan. This is the mouth of the Black River. The colder weather has caused ice to form near the shore. The ice helps to protect the beaches from erosion. Small Craft Advisories remain in effect ’til Sat. AM.

The flow most Great Lake rivers is slowly falling today, but remains above average flow. The Grand River at Grand Rapids has a flow of 6,380 cfs as I type this, compared to an average flow of 4,130 cfs. The Muskegon River at Evart has a current flow of 1,140 cfs, compared to an average flow for this time of year of 900 cfs and the Kalamazoo River at Comstock has a flow of 1,460 cfs, compared to an average flow of 1,050 cfs.

Great Lakes News: Chicago salt truck (ironically) slides on the ice into Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan will break February record water level. Lake Michigan beach use. Zebra mussel update. Great Lakes shipping delayed by high water. Lake Superior ice caves. Pennsylvania working on “making” a bigger muskie. Fewer yellow perch in Lake Erie. Security at Michigan ports. New river gauge at St. Joseph, Michigan. New Coast Guard Cutter named after Great Lakes hero. Wreckage creates hazard on beaches. Improving Great Lakes water quality. How Great Lakes water levels went up so much in 7 years (short answer…a lot of precipitation). Lake Michigan alewife update. Asian carp update. Winter surfing.

Great Lakes ice extent

Here’s Great Lakes ice extent…well below average for the end of February. Strong winds over the past couple days have broken up a little of the ice. While there is a little floating ice nearshore, in Lower Michigan, most all of the ice in Lake Michigan is in Green Bay and from Beaver Island to the Mackinac Bridge.

Ice at the Mackinac Bridge

From the Mackinac Bridge Authority Friday PM:

Current Bridge Conditions


High Wind Warning

Friday, Feb 28 – 2:08 PM

Currently we are experiencing winds of sufficient force in the Straits area to issue a warning to all motorists preparing to cross the Mackinac Bridge.

Examples of vehicles which are especially vulnerable to high winds are pickup trucks with campers, motor homes, vehicles pulling trailers and enclosed semi-truck trailers. Motorists are instructed to reduce their speed to a maximum of 20 miles per hour, turn on their four way flashers, and utilize the outside lane. Motorists are asked to exercise appropriate caution.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority is monitoring wind speeds at various points along the structure. Additional steps will be implemented if conditions change. If you are planning to travel to the Straits area, please tune to AM radio 530 or 1610 for updates.

Construction North bound with a lane closure, drive with care.

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