DETROIT (WOOD) -– What does all the snow this winter mean for Lake Michigan this summer?
Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration answered that and other questions about lake levels and the potential for flooding on the Grand River during a teleconference Wednesday afternoon.
The snow the Midwest received over the last few months will help the lake levels in the coming months, though it will not restore the lake to its long-term average.
Levels are expected to be about nine to 14 inches higher than in 2013. However, if the region sees more rain than usual, those numbers could rise slightly.
Level predictions are still nine to 12 inches below Lake Michigan’s long-term average. That could potentially impact how much cargo ships can carry to local ports, as their loads will need to be lighter to navigate the shallower water.
On Tuesday, the ice cover on Lake Michigan measured 92.45 percent, nearing the record of 93.1 percent set in 1977, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
That ice cover is good news for Lake Michigan. It will help sustain the predicted water levels because the ice and colder water temperatures will slow evaporation on the lake’s surface.
Officials also discussed two potential issues that West Michigan could face this spring concerning the Grand River and its flooding potential.
First, rainfall and the snowmelt will increase river levels -– but how much is unknown.
Second, the river is currently covered in ice in many areas, and as the ice begins to melt and break up into pieces, it could create ice jams that could lead to flooding.
Officials said it will be a delicate balance between time, temperature and rainfall.
There could be a positive impact from the snowy and icy conditions that West Michigan saw this winter.
Some fish, like whitefish, could see a population increase because they prefer ice cover for nesting.
Also, fruit growers could benefit from a cooler, later spring, which protects them from higher chances of damaging frosts.