Dry spring stalls lake level recovery
Written by Bay City Times   
Tuesday, 10 May 2005 12:38
Pray for rain if you want a loftier Lake Huron this summer.

April was dry in the Saginaw Bay area, and May showers aren't likely to outpace last year's totals, lake forecasters say.

So lake levels will probably even out, or even dip a little in Northeast Michigan this summer.

"If you're looking to have higher water, then start doing the rain dance," said Phil C. Ross, acting chief for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hydrology branch in Detroit.

The latest water level data from the Corps of Engineers shows that Lake Huron, combined with Lake Michigan for forecasting purposes, is 6 inches higher than at this time last year.

But Ross said that's mostly due to spring runoff from melting snow - a total of 75.5 inches fell in the Saginaw Bay over the winter, the third-highest on record, according to the National Weather Service.

The lake still is 13 inches below average, Ross said. It's projected to rise another 4 inches by June 6, but isn't supposed to be much higher by this July than it was in July 2004. It may even be a few inches lower.

April and May are the rainy season, and the lakes reach their seasonal high in June and July.

The Saginaw Bay area received 1.15 inches of precipitation in April, compared to the normal 2.82 inches, said David Shuler, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in White Lake Township.By comparison, last May was the second-wettest on record in the Saginaw Bay area, with 8.14 inches of rain, more than 5 inches above normal. So far this month, the area has received 0.29 of an inch rain.%%bodybegin%%"If we get rain over the next month," Ross said, "then supplies should increase and the water levels will tend to follow, but if we continue having a May that's similar to April, we may see the water levels start dropping a little bit lower than last season."%%bodybegin%%%%bodybegin%%Of course, things can change. In March, Corps data suggested that the Great Lakes were over the low-water hump. Not so, according to the latest readings, Ross said.

"We were expecting a normal to higher-than-normal April, but it turned out to be quite the contrary," he said.

But there's still hope for higher lake levels this summer, Shuler said.

The official National Weather Service outlook hasn't been released yet, but it will likely call for at- or above-normal precipitation this summer, Shuler said.

During the next week, there's a 30 to 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms every day in the Saginaw Bay area, he said.

"One thunderstorm can dump an inch of rainfall," Shuler said.

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