Waves up to 20 feet high batter Lake Michigan shore in northwest Indiana

ByJohn Garcia and Greg Dutra WLS logo
Saturday, March 7, 2020
Indiana lakefront communities devastated by erosion, high water levels
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Lake Michigan is at near-record levels, and the lakefront communities in Indiana are watching the waves wreak havoc on their shores, roads and homes.

BEVERLY SHORES, Ind. (WLS) -- In another rough day in what has been a rough season on the southern tip of Lake Michigan, waves up to 20 feet high battered an already fragmenting shoreline.

Near Beverly Shores, a sea wall that protects homes collapsed. The town council held a meeting Friday afternoon to hear opening bids on excavation costs to repair the damage caused by the continuing erosion.

WATCH: Dramatic photos show Lake Michigan's disappearing beaches

The lake is literally claiming several feet of property a day there, eating away at the ground where trees are planted until they tumble into the water. The strong winds Friday pushed waves crashing over the rocks, eating away even more of the land.

Beverly Shores is one spot among many that has been struggling to get funding to repair and/or restore damaged areas, and among the towns most urgently in need of a response.

Nancy Schawb, whose home sits just across the road from the ever-creeping lake, jokes that it could soon be swallowed by the waters, but it's not really a laughing matter. A long stretch of the road is already closed, and gas and water lines run under the road which makes matters more complicated.

While it looks bad from the air, you get a real sense of the kind of damage this winter has done when talking to the people on the front lines of mitigation.

"The park was designed when the lake was at an all-time low," said Michael Hrinyo, operations manager for Whiting. "It's not keeping up now."

The lakeshore is park land owned by the federal government, but the road and the property behind it belong to the town. Officials held an emergency meeting Friday afternoon to discuss their options. There are few .

RELATED: A look at Chicago's beaches after the early March winter storm

With the near record-high lake levels, the whole lakefront has taken a beating, but there's another problem complicating things: no ice. This winter has been so warm that the ice that usually acts as a buffer on the lakefront isn't present, allowing Lake Michigan to take its toll.

In fact, it has been a very active year. Between just Cook County, Illinois, and Lake County, Indiana, 13 lakeshore flood warnings have been issued, with six coming from Cook County and seven from Lake County. Crews have to piece the shore back together each time.

RELATED: Winter storm wreaks havoc on Chicago's shoreline

Beverly Shores officials have reached out to the governor asking him to declare a state of emergency which would make some funding available. But that would take some time. In the meantime they are asking people for financial help as soon as possible.