Experts say high lake levels likely through 2020

LUDINGTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Experts gathered in Ludington Wednesday to answer questions and spread awareness about the record and near-record water levels on the Great Lakes.

Lead Great Lakes Levels Forecast Supervisor Keith Kompoltowicz of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said to expect very high and record levels for the next six months and even into 2020.

Already, some of the daily Lake Michigan levels this month have exceeded the monthly mean record high from 1986. Kompoltowicz says it is likely this June will go down in the history books as the highest June water level on record.

The month is expected to fall short of the all-time record monthly high of 582.35 feet set in October of 1986, but Kompoltowicz says shattering the record this year is not out of the question.

Ludington lake levels event
Experts discuss Great Lakes water levels at a June 19, 2019, event in Ludington.

The quick rise on Lakes Michigan and Huron (which act as a single lake) is not unprecedented, but it is fairly rare. Experts at the meeting said one of the reasons it is catching so many off guard is because of the long stretch of below-average levels from the late 1990s to 2014.

Since 2014, there has been a string of very wet years for the Great Lakes, which has pumped up the supply of water and filled the lakes quickly.

“It’s just been very wet over the Great Lakes especially recently but even going back the last four, five, six years,” Kompoltowicz said.

In Lake Michigan, four of the past six years have had an above-average net supply of water. Currently, our ground is saturated and our streamflows are running high. This spring, our days have been running cloudier, cooler and wetter than average.

“There’s just nowhere for the water to go,” Kompoltowicz said.

Increased threat of erosion and loss of life are expected this year. Any storms that roll over the lake are expected to create bigger impacts. Experts say even on days that seem sunny or calm, it will be dangerous to head onto piers.

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