High Water In A Shallow Lake

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the five Great Lakes.  This spring, however, the constant rains have raised the level of the Lake by almost three feet.  In some places, like Sandusky, the water levels are the highest that have ever been recorded.

nqgkc7isfve23fnjclhlsjjowmThe high water levels are doing some real damage, too.  Some docks and parts of shorelines have become submerged, and increased erosion caused by the high waters is eating away the Lake Erie coastline.  From the North Coast communities of Mentor to Vermilion to Sandusky, officials are dealing with the impact of high water taking down trees, rendering docks inaccessible, and leaving low-lying areas underwater, and homeowners along the lake also are dealing with flooding issues.   The water levels in Sandusky are so high that the normal outfalls from Sandusky Bay to Lake Erie have been reversed, and water from the lake is now raising the water levels in the bay — causing officials to take drastic actions to try to pump the excess water out.  And the impact of the rain and high water has been compounded by a persistent wind from the north that is pushing the Lake Erie waters against the Ohio coast of the lake, increasing the damage.

The conditions pose special peril for boaters, in ways you might not expect.  The high waters will affect bridge clearances over lagoons and access rivers and is submerging some break walls that would otherwise be visible.  And, with increased erosion and trees collapsing into the lake, there is increased risk of debris messing with motors and propellers — all of which means that boaters had better watch it when they are close to shore.  And any experienced Lake Erie boater will tell you that the lake is legendary for its sudden storms that can appear in the blink of an eye, whip the water into a frenzy, and, in some instances, put boaters at risk of losing their boat — and their life.  The high waters won’t help in that category, either.

One lesson that you learn from reading about the impact of high water levels — there’s not much human beings can do about it, short term.  What the communities around Lake Erie need right now is a break in the constant rains and a period of sunshine and warm temperatures to allow evaporation to play its intended role and reduce lake levels back to normal.  In short, we need Mother Nature to show us a little mercy.

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The High-Water Mark


The Cumberland River flows through downtown Nashville.  There’s a little park on the downtown side of the river where you will finds lots of concrete steps, people still shaking off last night’s overindulgence — and a literal high-water mark.  It’s hard to believe the river reaches such heights, but in 2010 the Cumberland topped the high-water mark entirely and crested at 51.86 feet, causing catastrophic flooding that swamped the area.  The river was a lot lower, thankfully, when we visited yesterday morning.

Flood Stage

It has been raining, raining, and raining across Ohio.  In Columbus, it has been raining heavily, and virtually non-stop, for more than a day.

Counties across Ohio are under flood watches and flood warnings.  With the constant rain, the snow melt, and the saturated ground, excess water is pouring into creeks and rivers.  With amazing suddenness, the lazy, picturesque stream that you drive past on your way to work becomes a raging torrent that spills out from its bed.  The widening rivers then spread across the nearby landscape, covering the area with sluggish, slow-moving brown water, and when the waters recede they leave everything thickly coated with smelly brown muck.  The flooding risks are particularly acute for those to the north who live near Lake Erie, where all moving water flows to the Great Lakes basin, and those to the south who live along the many rivers that drain into the Ohio River.  As more and more water flows in, from rain and smaller tributaries, rivers can rise with startling speed, trapping those who are reckless or unwary.

If you want to live by a river in Ohio, you have to be prepared.  Flooding is just part of life during the early spring, although some years are worse than others.