Rivers are receding in West Michigan

Bill's Blog

The Barry County Sheriff’s Dept. issued this statement on their facebook page Sunday afternoon: “Avoid all water activities on the Thornapple River Barry County Sheriff’s Office Marine division personnel are advising citizens to stay off the Thornapple River, until the river levels are lower and the flow of the river is slower. Multiple individuals had to be rescued from dangerous currents Sunday afternoon.

River flow as of early Friday AM: Grand River at Grand Rapids – 11,600 cubic feet per second – average is 2,600 cfs, so we still have over 4 times the average flow. The Thornapple River at Hastings has a flow of 1,250 cfs, average is 184 cfs. That’s more than 6 times average flow. The Kalamazoo River at Comstock has a flow of 2,200 cfs, compared to an average flow of 741 cfs, so just under 3 times average flow. The St. Joseph River at Niles has a flow of 7,780 cfs, compared to an average flow of 2,870 cfs. The Saginaw River at Saginaw has a flow of 6,400 cfs compared to an average flow of 3,270 cfs. The Fox River at Green Bay has a flow of 7.280 cfs compared to an average flow of 3,920 cfs.

All that water is heading toward Lake Michigan/Huron, so the water levels are still increasing.

When I river has 10 times the average volume of water, that doesn’t mean it gets 10 times bigger. To get 10 times the water past a certain point, the river speeds up and sometimes it speeds up a lot relative to average. Kayaks and tubes can get hung up on branches, rocks or debris in the river and flip over.

First ALWAYS wear a floatation device. I have two kayaks and I never go out without first putting on my life jacket…even if I’m going to be in 3 feet of water. Second, when rivers are moving fast, as in a flood, consider going to a lake instead of a river. I also like lakes because you can put in and take out at the same spot.

Here’s were some river level graphs Sunday evening June 23:

Thormapple River at Hastings as of 7:15 pm Sunday 6/23/19

The Grand River at Comstock Park:

Grand River at Comstock Park – Kent Co. Michigan as of Sunday at 7 pm 6 23/19

The Kalamazoo River at Comstock:

Graph of the flow on the Kalamazoo River at Comstock

The picture below is from the S. Haven beach camera:

South Haven Beach Sunday evening 6 23 19

All the water in these swollen rivers is heading toward Lake Michigan and that will cause the water levels to continue to go up. This is the South Haven Beach Sunday evening and as you can see, there just isn’t much beach left. The water is getting close to the parking lot. As I have mentioned before, I’m worried about a derecho (fast moving line of thundrestorms with strong winds that push the water toward the shore) or a fall or early winter Edmund Fitzgerald-type storm that also pushes the water toward shore (called a “standing seiche“) (very good article and illustraions at the link from MSU) Either of these events could cause the water level to rise a foot or two and cause some significant flooding and erosion. All thru the year and into next year, Storm Team 8 will be tracking the weather and the water levels.

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