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Here's Why: 'Sand Hoodoos' Form In West Michigan

Have you seen one of these "sand hoodoos" before? Ever wonder how they form? Meteorologist Michael Behrens explains.

HOLLAND, Mich. — Picture this: you're walking along the beach and came prepared for a cold and brisk walk at the West Michigan lakeshore during the winter months. You were ready for the wind, but what you see in the sand, you have never seen before. 

Towers of sand, stretching to the sky and looking as if they must have been sculpted by something otherworldly. You ask yourself, how did these get here and why haven't you seen them before? 

These are the exact questions some were probably asking in Holland State Park last week as mysterious sand formations were found along the beach. So what are they, and how do they form?

Credit: MI DNR
Photo taken by MI DNR at Holland State Park.

The Question:

What are these sand sculptures and why do they form?

The Why:

These sculptures, called a "sand hoodoo," as they resemble the rock feature called a hoodoo, form as a result of wind, moisture and freezing temperatures. The first step is getting moisture into the sand, where it can be absorbed and freeze. 

This moisture can come from waves, rainfall, snow melt and/or residual moisture left in the sand. The moisture sets in when temperatures fall below freezing, and it freezes the sand together into intricate structures. 

Even once these structures have formed, we cannot see them until the final ingredient comes into play — strong winds. These winds will scour the beach, blowing the unfrozen sand away and leaving behind the towers of frozen sand. 

Credit: Michael Behrens
The final stage of sand hoodoo formation. Wind blows away the unfrozen sand to reveal the frozen towers.

If you see these structures, or hear from a friend that they have seen them, and want to get a look or photo for yourself, you'd better hurry. The same winds that reveal them can easily destroy them. They will also quickly melt when temperatures go above freezing. 

So, take in the wonder while you can, and be sure to send your photos to us here at 13 On Your Side after you do! 

-- Meteorologist Michael Behrens

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Email me at: MBehrens@13OnYourSide.com

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