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Around the Great Lakes, High Water Takes a Toll

“It’s never been like this, never,” says one homeowner on the shore of Lake Michigan
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 7, 2020 4:35 PM CST
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The dike protecting shoreline homes is seen in Luna Pier, Mich. The small town is considering spending millions to replace dikes built nearly a half-century ago, a steep price for a village of only 1,500 residents.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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High water is wreaking havoc across the Great Lakes, which are bursting at the seams less than a decade after bottoming out, per the AP. The sharp turnabout is fueled by the region’s wettest period in more than a century, which scientists say is likely connected to the warming climate. No relief is in sight, as forecasters expect the lakes to remain high well into 2020 and perhaps longer. The toll is extensive: homes and businesses flooded; roads and sidewalks crumbled; beaches washed away; parks were rendered unusable. Docks that boats previously couldn’t reach because the water was too shallow are now submerged. On New Year's Eve, an unoccupied cottage near Muskegon, Michigan, plunged from an embankment to the water’s edge. Another down the coast was dismantled a month earlier to prevent the same fate.

“It’s never been like this, never,” says Rita Alton, whose morning ritual near Manistee, Michigan, includes checking to see if her house is closer to tumbling down an 80-foot cliff into Lake Michigan. “The destruction is just incredible.” The clifftop is now only about eight feet from Alton’s back deck. Levels are always changing in the Great Lakes, which together hold about 90% of the surface fresh water in the US. They typically decline in fall and winter, then rise in spring and summer. Levels surged in the 1980s before dropping sharply in the 2000s. But increasingly, the highs are higher and the lows lower—and the variations happen faster. “It wasn’t long ago they were worried about Lake Michigan drying up. Now it’s full," said Rich Warner, emergency services director for Muskegon County. “All these ups and downs—I don’t know if that’s something you can truly plan for.” Read the full story.

(Read more Great Lakes stories.)

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