• Current lake levels are down from where they were at this time of year in 2021 and 2020; still well above average.
• Lake St. Clair considered mainly ice covered now.
• There is still a risk of flooding and shoreline damage along the Lake Erie shoreline until it freezes over.
• Sustained wind speeds above moderate can create waves that cause flooding, erosion, and shoreline damage.
• Risk of erosion and damage to shoreline protection works, including erosion along the high bluffs.
Average daily water levels on Lake Erie at the beginning of January were around 174.62 m (I.G.L.D.). The all-time record high monthly average for January was 174.86 m, set in 1987. Water levels at the beginning of January were still 60 cm above what would be considered normal for the month of January. Water level forecasts suggest that water levels will fall around 2 or 3 cm by the beginning of February.
Average daily water levels on Lake St. Clair at the beginning of January were around 175.46 m (I.G.L.D.). The all-time record high monthly average for January was 175.80, set in 2020. Water levels at the beginning of January were 60 cm above what would be considered normal for the month of January. Water level forecasts suggest that water levels will stay stable by the beginning of February.
Current water levels on the lakes are still well above average. Water levels on the lakes have fallen since December. Water levels on Lake Erie area currently around 15 cm lower than they were at this time of the year in 2021. Water levels on Lake St. Clair area currently around 35 cm lower than they were at this time of the year in 2021. Given that early 2020 saw record breaking water levels on both lakes, this drop is a positive sign.
Lake St. Clair is now considered mainly ice covered with new lake ice according to Environment Canada’s Marine Forecast and the Canadian Ice service. As a result, wind passing over the lake will be unable to create waves and therefore there is no longer a risk of shoreline flooding on Lake St. Clair until the lake thaws out.
Lake Erie has yet to freeze over. Therefore, strong winds out of the south or east could still cause issues along the shoreline. Along Erie Shore Drive, when winds are out of the south (SW through SE) flooding can being with wind speeds as low as 30 km/hr to 35 km/hr. Other shoreline areas could also be impacted by stronger southerly or easterly winds. Gale force winds of 60 km/hr should still be expected to cause significant flooding and shoreline damage. Due to freezing temperatures in the winter, there is a risk that wave spray could freeze onto shoreline structures, sidewalks and roadways leading to dangerous and slippery conditions. Frozen floodwaters can also lead to dangerous and slippery conditions.
Erosion and shoreline damage are still concerns for Lake Erie as well. The same waves that cause wave spray flooding can damage shoreline protection works and cause erosion in unprotected areas. The bluff areas all along the Lake Erie shoreline are also at a greater risk of erosion due to the high lake levels, especially when there are onshore winds and waves. Along the bluffs, the erosion can cause the bluffs to fail and there have been times over the last few years when many metres of land have fallen into the lake all at one time. Such failures do not necessarily happen during a high wind and wave event, and exactly when the bluff may fail is not something that can be predicted.
Shoreline residents need to pay attention to local conditions and prepare accordingly. The low wind speeds that lead to wave-related flooding in some areas is very difficult to forecast.
Please contact your local municipality should flooding and/or erosion events occur, or should events occur that could impact roadways and other public infrastructure. If there is an urgent risk to personal safety, call 911.
Most importantly, people need to keep themselves safe. Should an event occur, people should be extra careful and avoid the shoreline and any waterways with high water levels. The waves on the lakes can be strong, and the shoreline and the banks of waterways can be slippery and unstable. In the winter, freezing wave spray and frozen floodwaters can create dangerous and slippery conditions. There could also be hazardous debris within the waves and water which could be thrown onto the shoreline. Standing water can also present unseen hazards. Children and animals should be kept away from the water.
This is a standing message issued for the rest of the winter or until such time as Lake Erie freezes over and the risk of flooding is halted.
Should weather forecasts suggest a sustained wind event likely to cause shoreline issues, this message will be upgraded.
Message Contact: Jason Wintermute (email@example.com)