Tuesday, June 4, 2019

High Water, Family Ties...and More!

With less lawn to mow, time can be devoted to redoing the boardwalk
along this dock.  I began my work wearing loafers and soon found myself
standing in ankle deep water that crept up around me as
silently as the fog bank observed in the background. 

Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

When one isn't talking about the weather on Washington Island there is always the topic of lake levels.  The two are related, of course.

On the rise since the official, new low recorded in January of 2013, we've observed water levels creeping upward steadily, approaching record high levels seen in 1986 and 1987.  This has caused problems for boaters, shoreline owners, pier owners, and for the Ferry Line, trying to adjust to increasing water levels and shorelines that disappear one day, only to reappear a few hours or days later with a shift in wind or rise in barometric pressure.

I asked Island meteorologist and recorder of local data what might have prompted the unexpected rise and fall of the water observed on May 25th (and on several days since then).  Here is a portion of John Delwiche's reply:
"Dick: Yesterday was a very unusual day (I feel) from a meteorological standpoint. There was a shortwave impulse lifting NE thru Northern Ontario, and at the surface, a trailing Cold Front that extended across far SE Lake Superior and the Eastern UP. In other words, very close to the Island. The Storm Prediction Center mesoanalysis showed Mid-Level CAPE's edging upward ahead of the Front. (CAPE means Convective Air Potential Energy.) There was a narrow zone between the Front surging South, and the edge of the Lake Michigan modified air mass with the SSW winds you mentioned. This is only a guess, but I bet the action was going-on there, and it could have been a meso-Low. 

The narrow zone between the air masses probably showed-up best on Water Vapor Imagery from the GOES-16 (or 17) satellite that the NWS and SPC use. I don't know if I can "go back in time" with the GOES's images that I download, but I can try tomorrow morning. The best time for me to try downloading those images is very early morning(4AM-6AM). The files are so big, and it is futile to try downloads midday, much less on a weekend. I will try emailing NWS-Marquette as well. One of the guys there used to work in Green Bay, and I have emailed him in the past. "

John continued to dig for data that would help explain this observed "seiche," and hopefully he might give us greater explanation in one of his Island Observer weather columns.

The photos I've shown here exemplify what is becoming a daily challenge in ferry operations.  The Karfi, passenger ferry to Rock Island relied upon by hundreds of campers and day visitors over the summer months, operates from a landing near the boat house that will be in jeopardy on certain days when exposed to westerly or northwesterly winds and seas.  They can, and will, wash over the pier on those windiest days.  Wet feet and wet camping gear will result, and that's if the ferry can safely land behind what was formerly a protective pier.

What do 42 campsite fire rings and two semi loads of bundled firewood
have to do with high water, you may ask?  Staged on the lawn at the State Park
property in Jackson Harbor, they await transport to
Rock Island.  The previously assumed method - by one of the large 
Washington Island ferries - is out of question due both to lack of exposed pier to
butt against, and for the steepness of ferry ramp should the first evolution
be possible.  This cargo thus awaits transport by barge.

One can chance splitting the crotch in a pair of jeans
while getting to or from the Karfi deck.  The difference from
boat to pier has been eased somewhat with a step box. 
Shown here near the bow helps customers when hoisting
heavy camping gear 
over the rail of the ferry, items that are
often a challenge even for the muscle-bound Karfi crew to
handle with a smile.

Boaters are finding little to moor their craft against, unless pier supports are raised along the dock faces, a feat not easily or cheaply achieved.

Who's your daddy?

We recently attended a memorial service at Bethel Church for the former Island Archivist Barb Ellefson.  Barbara was known for her interest and enthusiasm for researching and teaching others the art of genealogy.  She carried the belief (unofficial, of course) that if you were from the Island, or from and Island family, then you were likely related not only to family A and B, but also C and D.

We test Barbara's theory in a combination program and teaching moment when the Archives presents "Island Genealogy," Sunday June 23 at 4:00 pm, in the Rutledge Room of the Community Center.  This location, a change from most of our public programs, means that activity will be centered next to the Archives computers and vault, and where those present may learn how important updating family records can be, and actually learn steps necessary to accomplish such a thing.  It may not matter as much to us as it might to our children, those of the next several generations who will someday wish to trace their family connections.  So, please mark June 23rd on your calendar, and spend a hour or so with Archivist Steve Reiss and the Archives volunteers to learn more about recording your family tree for posterity.  

Heading overseas!

Meanwhile, Mary Jo and I will take a leave of absence during most of June to attend to matters abroad...in this case a smattering of cruise stops in the Baltic countries.  We'll board a sister ship of the Viking Sun in Stockholm (remember the piano, chairs and plants sliding back and forth in an internet  video taken by one of the passengers on a fateful day aboard the Viking Sun in the North Atlantic? I knew immediately that was the cruise experience we were after!)

Truthfully, We've been assured that all four of the ship's engines will function smoothly (with lube oil day tanks filled and alarms reset to "Manual"), with little-or-no chance of failure, and that all itinerary stops scheduled along our route will bring smiles and education to our hearts and minds.  (What's the point of an adventure if there's never a concern for one's welfare?)   We're ready to cross the gangway and get started on our tour of Viking homelands.

In the meantime, in our absence, consider doing the opposite of the rain dance to induce a dry spell over the midwestern portion of the United States, with added emphasis and twisting movements to induce lower Lake Michigan levels during the coming months.

A show of hands...

One, last request before I close:  Be ready to put your hands in the air by the end of July if you're excited to join an Island delegation to travel to Iceland in early June of 2020.  A recent communication from our Icelandic friend Almar Grimsson prompts us to get seriously organized, which, in turn, will help our hosts and counterparts to plan for either a handful or a busload (or maybe two busloads) of Washington Island-connected folks.  Plans are to visit the seaside village of Eyrarbakki during the first week of June to join Icelanders in CelebrateIceland2020 - in whatever shape and form seems most appropriate --- "To Be Determined" during the coming months.  

Talk it up.  Get on the internet.  Check out the site, "Hey Iceland!"   Contact your friends and relatives for what could be both an epic and extremely meaningful trip to Iceland.

-  Dick Purinton