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Take precautions near shoreline

High lake levels combined with storms, especially in autumn and winter, can lead to flooding, coastal erosion, and bluff failure.


Storms may cause damage along shoreline this autumn, winter as lake levels remain very high
Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) encourages property owners to take precautions when closing cottages for the season

The Lake Huron water level is just below the record high for the month of September. This level is slightly below the all-time high lake level recorded in 1986 but it is high enough to cause significant damage to the shoreline when autumn and winter storms arrive, according to Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA).

The water level for Lake Huron is projected to be just more than 10 centimetres (four inches) higher, in September 2020, than it was in September 2019. The water level is expected to drop slightly in October but may still be very close to the October 2019 level.

Storm systems in autumn and winter bring strong northwest winds. Those heavy winds impact the Lake Huron shoreline. These winds, combined with high water, create intensified wave action. As temperatures drop this wave action may also create freezing spray. ABCA encourages property owners with structures close to the water to prepare for the possibility of flooding and freezing spray. Precautionary measures include boarding up windows and doors when closing one’s cottage for the season. 

There are steep bluffs in the area. People should take caution in bluff areas especially in autumn and winter. Bluffs can fail any time during or after autumn, even much later, or any season. Geoffrey Cade is ABCA Manager of Water and Planning. He said wave action can cause erosion at the base of the bluffs and, when bluffs are saturated with water, bluff failures are more likely. He said people should not walk along the top of bluffs and people should stay out of structures close to the edge of the bluff.

In order to protect life and property, ABCA has – for many years – been discouraging people from placing structures in areas of natural hazards such as flooding and erosion.

“We would encourage property owners along the shoreline to consider relocating amenity features such as decks and other structures away from hazard areas while conditions permit,” Geoffrey said. For erosion and property-specific information please contact ABCA Planning and Regulations staff at 

ABCA continues to monitor weather forecasts and storm-surge models over Lake Huron. ABCA does this in order to provide timely messaging to municipalities. ABCA messages include Shoreline Conditions Statements for weather events likely to result in high waves reaching the shoreline, resulting in potential coastal flooding and shoreline erosion issues. These statements, and other flood messages, are posted on the website at this link:

 These messages are also posted on Ausable Bayfield Conservation’s social media channels (Facebook and Twitter).

To learn more about Great Lakes water levels, there is a Canada newsletter and monthly update, on Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River water levels, LEVELnews, at this link:

 In addition to LEVELnews, Environment and Climate Change Canada also has a web page with links to a number of official websites containing Great Lakes water level and related data:

You may also visit the new Lake Huron web page at at this link: 

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