• Current water levels are down from this time last year, but similar to where they were in 2018 or 2019, and still well above average.
• Lake Erie has now lost its protective ice cover and ice cover on Lake St. Clair is also disappearing.
• There is a risk of flooding and shoreline damage along the shoreline of Lake Erie, and Lake St. Clair once the ice disappears.
• 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,
• When temperatures drop, there is a risk of icy conditions in shoreline areas when wave spray and flood waters freeze.
Average daily water levels on Lake Erie at the beginning of March were around 174.54 m (I.G.L.D.). This is down about 60 cm from last year’s peak daily average water level record set at the end of May. It is also 36 cm lower than it was on March 1st, 2020. The all time record high monthly average for March was 174.95 m, set last year. Water levels on March 1st were 44 cm above what would be considered normal for the month of March. Water levels have started their seasonal rise and water level forecasts are predicting water levels to climb around 12 cm over then next month.
Average daily water levels on Lake St. Clair at the beginning of March were around 175.52 m (I.G.L.D.). This is down about 56 cm from last year’s peak daily average water level record set during the third week of May. It is also 23 cm lower than it was on March 1st, 2020. The all time record high monthly average for March was 175.83, set last year. Water levels on March 1st were 59 cm above what would be considered normal for the month of March. Water levels have started their seasonal rise and water level forecasts are predicting water levels to climb around 7 cm over then next month.
Current water levels on the lakes are still well above average. While they are down quite a bit from last year at this time, they remain similar to where they were at this time in 2018 or 2019. Given the significant flooding issues seen in 2018 and 2019, flooding remains a concern.
After a brief period where the lakes were iced over and the shoreline protected from wave action, more active lake conditions are returning. Lake Erie along its length in the LTVCA has now opened up and the shoreline is no longer protected by either offshore or nearshore ice. While Lake St. Clair is still ice covered in its southeast corner through the LTVCA, the lake has opened up on the U.S. side, and solid ice should not be expected to remain on the Canadian side much longer.
Strong winds out of any direction could have an impact on some areas along our local shorelines. In the most vulnerable areas, such as Erie Shore Drive in Chatham-Kent, wave spray related flooding can begin at sustained wind speeds as low as 30 km/hr, while other less vulnerable areas may need wind speeds closer to 45 km/hr. Gale force winds of 60 km/hr could be expected to cause significant flooding and shoreline damage to any low lying shoreline area. The area’s most frequently impacted communities and the relevant wind direction include: Lighthouse Cove when winds are out of a north through west direction; Erie Shore Drive when winds are out of the south (SW through SE); the bay side of Erieau when winds are out of a north through east direction; Shrewsbury when winds are out of the east (NNE through ESE); and Rose Beach Line when winds are out of a south through northeast direction. Of course, other shoreline areas are also susceptible.
Wave spray will continue to be the main cause of flooding along the LTVCA shorelines, which will depend on the wind speed, wind direction, and the waves they create. In some low-lying shoreline areas, such as Erie Shore Drive, there may still be some waves overtopping shoreline protection works when the waves are large. When air temperatures are below the freezing point, wave spray and flood waters could freeze onto shoreline structures, nearby homes, the ground, or even nearby roadways. In the past, this has caused cottages along Erie Shore Drive to become covered in ice, which creates even more risks to residents. Over the last couple of years, floodwaters have frequently made their way onto the roadways in Lighthouse Cove and onto Erie Shore Drive. This could create very icy and treacherous conditions for walking and travelling in shoreline areas.
Erosion and shoreline damage are still concerns 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.
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.
Shoreline residents need to pay attention to local conditions and be prepared. 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. 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 month of March. 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)