CHICAGO (CBS) — Lake Michigan is full–very, very full.

The National Weather Service reports, lake water levels have risen six inches in the past month, due in large part to an abnormally high amount of rain this spring.

May was the wettest on record, and, the NWS says, the Chicago area has experienced a near-record 78 days with measurable precipitation this year. The most number of days with measurable precipitation from January through June in Chicago was 85 back in 1892 and 1878.  More rain is likely this weekend.

It requires 2.3 trillion gallons of water to raise the lake by a half-foot, the weather service says. The mean Lake Michigan level right now is about 581 feet, according to  the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That’s about a foot short of the record set in 1987. It’s currently about three feet above the historical average. In fact, all of the Great Lakes are at or near historic highs. 

The main concern with rising lake levels: higher chances of beach erosion and shoreline flooding damage.

And beaches are shrinking. For example the dog beach at Belmont Harbor is mostly under the water. The ramp leading to the sand is submerged.

Holly Specht, the lakefront manager for the Wilmette Park District, says recent rainfall is affecting Gillson Park Beach.

“Well, the people are a little bit closer together,” she said.

Lake levels began rising in 2015 after several years of below average levels.

In 2013, water levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron were recorded at historic low levels. It was part of a decade-long trend of below average readings. The low mark was attributed to a below average snowfall the previous winter.

At Gillson Park back then, the beach was about twice as big as today, Specht said.

A few months earlier, there were concerns that a continued decline would force the Chicago River locks to close, causing pollution. 

 

Eric Cox