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Unusual weather leads to extremely low lake levels

8:15 PM, Nov 28, 2012   |    comments
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The Invincible was stranded on a sandbar in Lake Michigan.

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WZZM)-According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, residents are never more than six miles from a body of water at anytime.

That water is essential to our weather patterns, but the Great Lakes aren't looking so great right now. After 12 months of unusual weather, West Michigan is on track to break a few more records by 2013.

"For Lake Michigan, we're running about two inches above the all-time low water levels for the month of November. We plan on probably hitting those low water level records here at the end of November, " said Thomas O'Bryan, a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

One of the reasons for the low lake levels is a warmer than average 2011-2012 winter with minimal snowfall. Water evaporates in the winter if there's no ice to keep a lid on the lakes.

Another problem was the heat waves of this summer. Several days hit 90 degrees and higher. Combine that with no rain for weeks on end, and Lake Michigan is 26 inches below the 100 year average, according to O'Bryan.

"One inch of water over Lake Michigan or Lake Huron is into the hundreds of billions of gallon. So you can imagine what six feet of water is, and that's all gone out of the system right now," says O'Bryan. "Low water levels create other problems related to launching of boats, shallow waters, objects that are now out of the water that haven't been and mud flats that are now exposed."

Right now, Grand Rapids is more than four inches below the average amount of rainfall for this point in the year. In order to make up the difference in lake levels, the area will need normal or above normal snowfall this winter, with very little melting in March.

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