GRAND HAVEN, Mich. —
As Memorial Day, the unofficial start to summer approaches, you might find yourself wondering: "Where's the beach?"
Water levels on Lake Michigan are approaching near record highs.
“I've been camping out here for probably 50 years,” said Dianne Riedy, a Grand Rapids resident.
It doesn’t take someone who spends every summer at the lake to see the shoreline shrinking.
“We just noticed down by the pavilion, that there's no beach left, it's a lot smaller,” Riedy said.
Water levels have been rising since 2016, due to wetter than normal weather several years in a row.
“Lake Michigan right now is about three inches lower than the all-time May record that was set back in 1986," said Andrew Dixon, a service hydrologist at the National Weather Service. "And it's about 13 inches lower than the all-time record that was set in October of 1986.”
Will water levels this year break that record?
“The latest forecast does not have Lake Michigan reaching that all-time level," Dixon said. "It'll probably be between six and 12 inches lower than that all-time level. But it's still very high, definitely higher than it's been for the last 20 years or so.”
Higher water levels makes it easier for storms and waves to cause additional erosion and possible property damage.
“We don't necessarily forecast damage, but it wouldn't be at all surprising if there were," Dixon said. "The last time water levels were this high, back in the 80s, there were definitely impacts to homes and buildings.”
It's also important to be aware of waves crashing over the piers and changing conditions along the beach.
“Lake Michigan water levels typically peak in July, and so we're expecting an additional probably three to six inches of water increase in the next one to two months," Dixon said. "This is going to be something we're talking about for the rest of the summer, and maybe for multiple summers."
Regardless, Riedy is ready for her summer on the lake.
"It's just part of Lake Michigan," Riedy said. "In five years we'll be complaining that the lakes are too low.”
Keep a lookout this summer, the National Weather Service could issue a "Lakeshore Flood Advisory."
When that happens, strong storms could increase the likelihood of beach erosion and other damage.
There could also be an increased risk of flooding in communities along river channels draining into Lake Michigan.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.