Lake Michigan


May 19, 2011 // 0 Comments

Water, Water (Almost) Everywhere by CRAIG JAMES Can you believe Lake Michigan has nearly three trillion more gallons of water in it than at this time last month? With the wet spring we have had, the lake has risen seven inches since mid April, which translates to 2.73 trillion gallons more water. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Michigan is still about two inches below last year at this time and 16 inches below the long-term average for May. Lake Michigan is an amazing 47 inches below the highest level of record set back in 1986, but it is 13 inches higher than the lowest level of record set in 1996. Lakes Erie and Ontario are above average for this time of year. In fact, Lake Ontario is up 18 inches from last year and is now six inches above its long-term average for May. Lake Michigan is expected to come up another three inches by mid June; Lake Superior may rise another four inches, while the eastern lakes should remain nearly unchanged. The total increase of water in the five Great Lakes in the last month is over 11 TRILLION gallons! Farther south, the Corps of Engineers is releasing water through spillways on the Mississippi River to prevent another flood the magnitude of the 1927 flood, which is the worst flood ever recorded for that river. The water is flowing at the rate of 1.5 million cubic feet per second through the river between Arkansas and Mississippi. Last Sunday, May 15, the Grand River in Grand Rapids was flowing at just 7.6 thousand cubic feet per second. An engineer has calculated that at the rate the Mississippi is flowing, the water could completely fill the Superdome in New Orleans in just 50 seconds. Opening the spillway will release enough water to submerge about 3,000 square miles of land under as much as 25 feet of water. This will take the pressure off the downstream levees protecting New Orleans, Baton Rouge and the numerous oil refineries and chemical plants along the lower reaches of the Mississippi. However, it could mean ruin to many of the farmers who grow crops in the flooded area. The government tells us there is little inflation. However, […]

Lake effect doesn’t always mean snow

April 7, 2011 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL The dreaded “lake effect” that results oftentimes in heavy snows and brings dismay to most people, at the same time, is embraced by the Lake Michigan lakeshore vineyards and wine makers of Michigan. Their proximity to Lake Michigan and its prevailing westerly winds across 50 miles of open water, even in winter, provides temperature modification that protects the vineyards’ grapevines from winter damage. Because of this “good side” of the lake-effect phenomenon, Michigan has become a real player in the winemaking industry. Recently we learned that, for the first time ever, U.S. wine sales topped France. Americans bought more wine overall in 2010 while at the same time practicing moderation by consuming only 2.6 gallons per capita as compared to 12.2 gallons a year for the French. This was great news to Michigan winemakers. We, your reporters, consider ourselves wine aficionados who, in embracing the “Pure Michigan” concept, only purchase and consume wines that are produced in Michigan. As with farm produce, we strive also to think locally. So on a recent Saturday evening after a short 60-mile drive, we arrived at Fenn Valley Vineyards just east of Fennville. We were there to support and partake of the annual Pre-release Winemaker’s Dinner hosted by Doug Welsch, Fenn Valley’s owner and winemaker. In the setting of a gourmet meal, we were given the opportunity to experience six pre-release wines in the very best way possible: with paired food courses. What a setting it was! We found ourselves in the company of 132 wine lovers as we settled down to an educational evening of superb food complemented with the perfect wine variety. With white linen napery, 22 round tables each seating six were resplendent with fresh tulip floral pieces, fine china and silver settings, along with rows of six wine glasses radiating spoke-like from the table’s center. The wine glasses, to each person’s right, were matched to and to be filled with the wine being served with each of the meal’s six courses. But before even being seated, guests mingled and were invited to enjoy the tasting of sparkling wines (both dry and sweet) as they began to know one another while grazing from a table laden with crackers and an array […]


March 17, 2011 // 0 Comments

Could a tsunami occur in Lake Michigan? by CRAIG JAMES After a large tsunami somewhere in the world, it has been very common to hear the question, “Can a tsunami occur in Lake Michigan?” Fortunately, the answer to that is, “If you mean something like what just happened in Japan, NO.” We have no seismic faults in our area to cause large earthquakes that can generate what we saw in Indonesia in 2004 and Japan last week. In case you haven’t heard, according to the United States Geologic Survey, the earthquake moved the island of Japan eight feet and shifted the axis of the Earth several inches. Now that is power! Tsunamis used to be called tidal waves, but they have nothing to do with the tides. They propagate through the open ocean at speeds over 600 mph. There is little evidence of the wave out over the deep open water, but as the wave approaches the shore and the water gets shallower, the wave slows down and can build to immense heights. However, we do get an event in Lake Michigan, and in any large lake actually, called a seiche. It is pronounced “ saysh” and is a French word meaning to sway back and forth. It is defined as a temporary disturbance or oscillation in the water level of a lake or partially enclosed body of water, especially one caused by changes in atmospheric pressure. Thunderstorms frequently produce strong downdrafts of cold air that increase the barometric pressure along the leading edge of the storm. The wind plus the higher pressure can push water away from one shoreline of a lake toward the opposite shore. This is especially pronounced on Lake Michigan with a storm moving along the long axis of the lake. It is less frequent with a west-to-east moving storm but does occasionally happen. A seiche moves much more slowly than a tsunami, usually about the speed of the thunderstorm winds, but once the swell of water moves onshore, the water quickly retreats back into the lake, generating deadly rip currents. The water can then slosh back and forth for hours until lake levels return to normal. Large seiches on Lake Michigan are rare, but according to a Michigan State University […]