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High waters bring unintended consequences

If you were down at Art on the Bay this past weekend you couldn’t help but notice the standing water in some of the low areas around Bay View Park.

If you were in that same neighborhood last Saturday when the rains came, then you also were probably treated to several inches of standing water washing out of the Alpena Boat Harbor basin and onto Prentiss Street.

Welcome to the Great Lakes summer of 2019.

The high water levels in the Great Lakes this summer are nothing new and have been mentioned previously on this page.

What is new, however, and something I found worth pondering was a special warning about unintended consequences of this high water from U.S. Army Corps officials earlier in the week.

Over the years I have found their releases practical and trustworthy, thus when they speak, I tend to listen all the more.

In a release issued Monday officials specifically listed three areas to be especially cautious around with this summer’s high water.

The first is the danger of submerged structures present. In many instances structures normally above water, like pier planking, are now underwater. The same is true of breakwater structures where fishermen often congregate. Slippery, they present greater risk for falls or striking a rock if someone jumped, or fell into the water.

The second was the increased danger of rip currents. Higher water, combined with wind and more waves, are all ingredients that can cause more rip currents.

For instance earlier in the week at Mackinaw City several crew members of the Star Line’s ferry Joliet helped rescue a young girl on a raft that had drifted about a quarter mile out into the Straits.

The combination of high water and wind quickly changed this child’s beach experience from one of happiness to fear very quickly.

Finally, the third danger high water levels present is drowning, particularly around marinas or public areas where electrical hook-ups would tend to be. Those hook-ups could easily shock someone who came in contact with the water around them, leaving the person immobile and at risk for drowning.

And, the high water looks to be here all summer long.

Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of Watershed Hydrology with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit, said “wet weather continued in June, which allowed water supplies to the lakes to remain high. June was the third consecutive month with above average precipitation across the Great Lake basin as a whole. This persistently wet weather also has allowed stream flows into the Great Lakes to remain well above average for this time of year.”

In fact, Kompoltowicz said, “water levels continued to rise in June and have reached some of the highest levels in our recorded history, which dates back to 1918.”

Enjoy the water, but be safe around it this summer.

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or bspeer@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.