Water levels in Lake Erie drop in August. What are the forecasts for the coming months?
Water levels in Lake Erie fell in August and, while still above average, are expected to continue to decline this month and several more.
“Lake Erie fell almost an inch from July to August,” said Lauren Schifferle, a Buffalo District Civil Engineer with the US Army Corps of Engineers.
According to the Corps of Engineers’ August 2021 Great Lakes Water Level Summary, Lake Erie water levels over the next six months are expected to be 5 to 11 inches below 2020 and 7. at 19 inches below record levels. However, they are expected to stay 15 to 20 inches above long-term average levels from September through February, according to the summary.
Still, it’s good news for visitors to Presque Isle State Park and local homeowners, who saw record water levels in 2019 and 2020 interfering with recreation and causing damage.
“We’re definitely seeing lower lake levels, which is a good thing,” said Matt Greene, director of operations at Presque Isle.
He said he’s encouraged by the screenings. Lower lake levels in October and November mean the beaches are better able to handle the seasonal storms that can hammer the peninsula’s shore, Greene said.
From August:US Army Corps of Engineers reports on high water levels in Lake Erie. Here is what awaits you
Lower lake levels also mean less damage to park infrastructure and less effects on recreation.
“It wasn’t as bad as the past two years, but it was still far from normal,” Greene said of recent water levels.
Lake Erie reached or exceeded record flood levels in February, March, April and May 2020 and June, July, August and September 2019, according to information from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Greene said this year the park was able to open about 60% of its indoor trails.
“We still had some that were flooded with water,” he said.
Schifferle said no record high was set for Lake Erie in 2021.
She said Lake Erie’s water level in August was 9 inches below the 2019 record high for August of 574.21 feet. But the monthly average level of 573.46 feet for August 2021 was still 20 inches above the August long-term average of 571.78 feet. The lowest record of 569 feet was set in August 1934.
“We expect it to follow its seasonal decline through fall and early winter,” Schifferle said of Lake Erie.
She said it’s a bit too early to tell if the lake’s water level will drop as much as it usually does in the fall. In September, it is typically about 3.5 inches lower than in August, she said.
The upstream lakes – Superior, Michigan and Huron – have also declined from record highs in 2020 and 2019, Schifferle said. That’s a good sign because she said they contribute about 80 percent of the water that goes into Lake Erie.
Homeowners see the decline
Randy Graham, who owns a property along Lake Erie in Northeast Township, said he noticed Lake Erie levels are dropping somewhat. He checks the numbers online at least twice a month because he’s worried about potential damage to his house and boathouse on Riverside Drive.
But he is still happy to have installed a steel and concrete dyke in 2020. The rise in the lake’s level has caused its old dike to fall into blocks two years in a row, he said.
“They say the lake is going to recede until the end of the year, but who knows,” Graham said.
He said he hoped it would decrease but not too much. He remembers the low water levels in 2013 which caused problems getting his boat in and out of the Northeast Marina.
“If it goes back down to its historic level, that would be wonderful,” Graham said.
From 2020:Lake Erie water levels threaten lake shores, Presque Isle State Park
Great Lakes water levels tend to vary seasonally, with more water entering lakes in the spring while summer and fall tend to be drier. Cycles of lower and higher levels can also occur over a number of years.
“In the long run, the lakes will get back to average,” Schifferle said.
They will also set records and records, she said, officials just don’t know when.
She said we will see changing conditions on the lakes in the future because climate change is expected to lead to more extreme weather conditions, although their exact effect on water levels is not known.
On the peninsula:Winter ice, falling water levels help protect the beaches in Presque Isle State Park from erosion
Schifferle said it’s a good idea to prepare for higher and lower water levels on the Great Lakes.
Find more information on the water levels of the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie, at bit.ly/erielevels.