Lake Michigan flood concerns sticking around

Ottawa County

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Around noon Monday, South Haven was a kiteboarder’s dream, with strong gusts and red no-swimming flags flying above South Beach. 

High water levels added to the spectacle, partially flooding the pier and forming a small pond on part of the beach. 

Cheryl Howard is visiting from California. When she visited a decade earlier, Howard said South Haven looked much different.

“There was a lot more sand,” she recalled. “Because we walked out quite a ways.”

Heavy rainfall led to a lakeshore flood advisory along Lake Michigan for most of Monday. Water levels are already nearing record-highs for the month of June, according to Storm Team 8

North in Grand Haven, several roads along the Grand River are covered by water. Along Lake Michigan, concern is growing as the rising water continues to swallow sand.

“We know back in the 1980s there were some structures that were lost due to that beach erosion,” Ottawa County Emergency Management Director Nick Bonstell said. 

Bonstell said they aren’t seeing anything like that yet.  In fact, the county had no major property damage reports as of Monday.

But that could change. That’s why emergency agencies are surveying problem spots, trying to get ahead of the flooding and erosion before the situation worsens.

“Between our departments, we’re out and about every day trying to monitor those things daily,” explained Spring Lake Fire Chief Brian Sipe. 

“People right now are doing a really good job of taking care of their property. A lot of individual homeowners are hitting your local stores to get those sandbags, (putting) those sandbags in place,” Bonstell said. 

Water levels are expected to peak in early to mid-July, Bonstell said, so it’s unclear how bad the problem could get.

“The biggest challenge with this is the fact that it’s not necessarily something that just happened and you can respond to and deal with and a week later we’re done with it,” Bonstell said. “This is something that’s gonna be very long term. So, we’re dealing with situations as they pop up from now all the through summer until the lake waters recede.”

Later this month, the emergency management team will join the National Weather Service on a boat trip to assess erosion along Lake Michigan. 

Bonstell said an important step in the early stages of this situation is communicating with the public and other agencies as potential problems arise. He said they will be regularly posting updates on their Facebook page and website

If you have a flooding or erosion problem, call the department at 616.738.4050. 

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