Video captures dramatic shift in Lake Erie’s water levels during high winds

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PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio (WJW) – A fascinating time-lapse video making the rounds on social media shows a dramatic shift in water levels on Lake Erie during the high winds experienced on Monday. 

The video was produced by the Miller Boat Line and comes from the company’s web camera at Put-in-Bay.

It captures the sharp drop in lake levels over a period of 12 hours, as the winds pushed the water from the western basin of the lake all the way to the eastern basin.

“When the winds come from the southwest, all of the water blows off to Buffalo and they see a surge of water down there for a couple of hours and eventually the winds can’t hold it, so it comes back, but we dropped about 40 inches that day,” Miller Boat Line spokesperson Caitlin Bolyard said.

FOX 8 meteorologist Scott Sabol says what happened on Monday is what’s known as a seiche.

“It’s like sloshing the water in your bathtub, the water will go from the west of the lake to the east part of the lake and will drastically change the height of the lake over a short period of time. The levels then return to normal after the winds die down,” he said.

The west to east flow of the seiche caused a dramatic surge in lake levels in Buffalo.

Conversely, when there is a seiche that starts from the Buffalo end of the lake, the impact on the western end can be quite dramatic, especially when the lake levels are high.

Fortunately, those levels have now dropped to eight inches below the record high levels in 2019 and 2020.

“A couple of years ago, every time we had an east wind, it would flood some of the roads here. It would flood our docks, which caused some problems being able to maintain service,” said Caitlin Bolyard. “But luckily the lake levels are going down. They are on the downward trend right now.”

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