Large waves close Lake Michigan piers, draw crowds

Waves crash against the lighthouse in South Haven on Nov. 12, 2015.

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities are asking people to stay clear of the piers in Grand Haven, but it didn’t stop crowds from gathering there and at other nearby beaches.

The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety closed the South Pier at 10 p.m. Wednesday, barricading off the pier’s entrance. The decision to close the North Pier was made around 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Grand Haven DPS will monitor the weather conditions and reopen the piers when the danger of severe weather subsides.

Director of Public Safety Jeff Hawke said in a Wednesday afternoon statement that his department believes it would be “better to be proactive than reactive in this situation.”

>>Photos: November storm whips up Lake Michigan


South Haven’s pier has drawn a similar crowd. In the several hours a 24 Hour News 8 crew was at the pier on Thursday, no one dared to get in the lake, but dozens gathered to watch. Most of the spectators saw the waves through the lens of a camera or the screen of an iPhone.

“It’s cool to look at, take pictures, remember that this happened. It might never happen again,” lifelong South Haven resident Alicia McPike said.

She and three friends took their break at the lake to watch the angry waves, larger than any they had ever seen before.

“It’s unbelievable,” McPike said. “It’s crazy.”

Part of the South Haven pier were completely underwater.

The National Weather Service is predicting that waves could reach 16 feet Friday for some lakeshore communities. Those waves would pack a punch, making the piers dangerous for anyone who tries to get too close to the water.

“Due to the water temperature and the size of the waves, if they were to be swept off the pier, which would be highly likely, it would be unlikely that we would be able to rescue them in a timely manner,” Grand Haven DPS Sgt. Josh Tomes told 24 Hour News 8 on Wednesday night.

>>Powerful November storm headed for Great Lakes

Residents say they hope shutting down the piers will keep people safe.

“There’s a lot of adventurers that like to come out and take pictures and whatnot, so I guess better safe than sorry,” resident Doug Furton said.

Officers are also reminding people who live on Harbor Drive and North Shore Drive to secure any lightweight items outside their homes. In addition, Beach Street between Resort Avenue and Lakeshore Drive in Muskegon is shut down in an effort to keep people away from the shore.


Erosion is a concern on the shoreline. Relentless winds have both carried sheets of sand off shores and into nearby streets and parking lots. The City of Grand Haven said it tries to keep the roads driveable and clear during storms. It will then collect sand off the roads and deposit it back onto the beach

Waves have also eaten away at sand. Storms of this magnitude often produce some erosion, but lakeshore locals say it’s not comparable to the massive erosion that took place along Lake Michigan in the 1980s.

Scientists say the turning water will mix up sediment in Lake Michigan and inland lakes, which could increase the nutrients in the lakes. Though incoming cold temperatures will help to neutralize that some. Scientists also say plants that are ripped and carried in the water could aid in the spread of invasive species.



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