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Seiche sends bay, lake up onto shores Sunday

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Owen Sound closed part of its waterfront trail Monday at Kelso Beach Park after a seiche in record-high Georgian Bay waters washed away part of the trail Sunday.

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The asphalt path between the splash pad and Kelso washrooms is now closed.

The segment behind the amphitheatre has washed away or been buried under more than 30 centimetres of sand and debris, some deposited on the amphitheatre stage building floor. Water is pooled behind the nearby washrooms.

A seiche was generated by a rainstorm with high winds Sunday, said John Bittorf at Grey Sauble Conservation.

Storm winds piled up water on the eastern shores of the bay, which receded westward before storming back in a sloshing bathtub action. A similar effect was felt in Lake Huron along the shoreline in Bruce County, he said.

“It’s not like the normal wave you’d see at Sauble Beach. I’m going to call it a rare phenomenon but we’re seeing it a little bit more with the high lake levels,” the water resources co-ordinator at the conservation authority said. Effects of one a couple weeks ago were felt in Northern Bruce Peninsula, he said.

Photos on Facebook of flooding in Oliphant on Lake Huron show Lakeshore Road underwater. Online photos of the Craigleith area, east of Owen Sound, show shores there were temporarily flooded there too.

Readings on a gauge Bittorf installed recently at Oliphant show the lake level changed by about 0.6 metres or almost two feet over a period of hours.

The city marked the closed segment of the Kelso trail with barricades. It will remain closed until conditions improve and debris is removed, an Owen Sound news release said.

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Water pools behind the Kelso Beach Park washrooms and a segment of walking path behind the amphitheatre at far right has washed out and is closed on July 21, 2020. (Scott Dunn/The Sun Times/Postmedia Network)
Water pools behind the Kelso Beach Park washrooms and a segment of walking path behind the amphitheatre at far right has washed out and is closed on July 21, 2020. (Scott Dunn/The Sun Times/Postmedia Network)

A city clean-up crew began work at Kelso Tuesday afternoon and it has another day’s work there Wednesday, city community service director, Pam Coulter, said in a phone interview. Cleanup of the waterfront trail on the other side of the bay, by the Inn on the Bay was pretty well completed Tuesday, she said.

Give higher water levels, the city will look at its master plan for Kelso and budget some money for 2021 to address it, she said. She noted water is really high in the storm outlet channel, which is the segment of the Pottawatomi River which flows through the park.

A temporary walking path will be created at Kelso until more permanent solutions are found, she said.

“Our engineering team is working on a plan for some shoreline protection, in addition to where the storm outflow is,” Coulter said. “But we’re going to need probably to do more work next year.”

But people were still in the park, taking advantage of pleasant temperatures in the low 20s and sunshine Tuesday morning.

Kids played in the bay and on section of beach by the washrooms; a man read a book on the warm amphitheatre stones and a woman sat with her laptop at a picnic table behind the amphitheatre. Others took photos by the bay.

The US Army Corps of Engineers’ online Great Lakes water level assessment says Lake Huron-Georgian Bay-Lake Michigan is at a record monthly high.

It’s three inches (7.6 centimetres) higher than a year ago, 33 inches (83.8 cm) above its long-term July average, and two inches (5 cm) higher than the highest monthly average of record for July, set in 1986.

“High water levels and potentially record-high water levels are expected to persist for at least the next six months, so flood prone areas are expected to remain vulnerable,” the army corps’ lake levels webpage says.

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