Disaster avoided as local lake levels continue to fall

Flooding along Erie Shore Drive in Chatham-Kent, August 27, 2019 (Photo courtesy of Jason Homewood via Twitter)

The worst seems to be over for those living along Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair in Chatham-Kent and under the threat of flooding.

The Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority (LTVCA) said water levels on both Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair have finally fallen below the 1986 records. However, they are still well above where they were this time last year and there is still a risk of shoreline flooding, erosion and damage to the shore on both lakes because of strong winds and/or heavy rains.

The LTVCA said water levels on Lake Erie have dropped throughout September and will continue to drop this month.

“Daily average water levels on Lake Erie peaked on June 22 at an elevation of 175.19 metres and have since fallen by about 37 centimetres. This September’s average monthly water level still broke the previous September 1986 record of 174.83 metres by 4 centimetres. However, current water levels are now around 12 centimetres below the October 1986 monthly water level record,” the LTVCA said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “Water level forecasts for Lake Erie suggest that by the end of October water levels are most likely to fall by another 12 centimetres.”

Lake St. Clair has a similar story.

“Daily average water levels on Lake St. Clair peaked on July 7/8 at an elevation of 176.08 metres and have since fallen by about 22 centimetres. This September’s average monthly water levels still broke the previous September 1986 record of 175.84 metres by 2 centimetres. However, current water levels are now around 10 centimetres below the October 1986 monthly water level record,” the conservation authority added. “Water level forecasts for Lake St. Clair suggest that by the end of October water levels are most likely to fall by another 12 centimetres.”

Several roads continue to be closed due to flooding and/or erosion, including Talbot Trail between Coatsworth Road and Stevenson Road and Rose Beach Line, east of Antrim Road. Erie Shore Drive also remains closed but may be reopened in the future.

The LTVCA added that Lighthouse Cove is most often impacted when winds are out of the north or west; Erie Shore Drive when winds are out of the south; the bayside of Erieau when winds are out of the east or north; and Shrewsbury and Rose Beach Line when winds are out of the east. Jason Wintermute, manager of watershed and information services with the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, also said 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 because the erosion can cause land several metres inshore to fall into the lake all at one time.

He added heavy rains could also cause flooding in low lying shoreline areas because rainwater is not draining properly from soaked and saturated areas.