2017-10-26 / Front Page

More storms to follow 5-inch rain

Cedar River tops its banks
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Unseasonably warm, dry weather gave way to rain — and plenty of it — this week as the season changed seemingly overnight from a very late summer to a nasty fall.

Some 5.16 inches of rain was recorded over a three-day period from Sunday through Tuesday at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Bingham Township — with forecasts of more to come this weekend.

Accumulated rain crept into roads in low-lying areas county wide and filled retention ponds to their brims.

The big rain also made a lot of work for Gerald Culman II, head of buildings and grounds for Leelanau County, who is also charged with maintaining the court-ordered lake level for Lake Leelanau at 589.20 feet.

He raises and lowers the lake level by manipulating controls at the dam in Leland.

“I had the gates three-quarters of the way down,” Culman said. “That’s 150,000 cubic feet of water per second … That’s a helluva lot of water.”

He compared Lake Leelanau to a big bathtub.

“The northwest winds kept pushing everything to the south end of the lake,” Culman explained.

The impacted area included in the Lake Leelanau watershed near Cedar where water crept up the banks of the Cedar River and into the Solon Township River Park.

Water flooded the banks, swallowing up riverside benches and spreading over to fill adjacent ballfields. Likewise, a recently-improved area near the recycling station nearby was also under water.

Rich Zywicki had a front row seat to monitor rising water from his business, Cedar Hardware.

“I’ve never seen the water that high, it’s almost up to the foot bridge,” he said.

Zywicki recorded two inches of rain Sunday, another three on Monday with another three-quarters of an inch measured by 7 a.m. Tuesday.

And at the other end of the “bathtub,” Culman has control of the plug. His is a delicate balancing act.

“I have to consider the property above and below the dam,” he said, referring to the charter boat operations and businesses on the Lake Michigan side of the dam and businesses closer to the mouth of the Leland River such as Stander Marine.

Elsewhere in the county, this week’s big rain wreaked havoc on Lee Point Road where a longstanding issue with a blocked or damaged culvert resulted in standing water on the road.

The Road Commission garage in Suttons Bay, lying in a low area adjacent to Co. Rd. 633, was also impacted, as was a portion of Co. Rd. 641 near Horn Road.

“We had some ‘water over road’ signs out Tuesday, but most were removed (yesterday) morning because the water had receded,” Road Commission manager director Dan Wagner said.

In other rain-related activity, the significant precipitation coupled with a disregard for signs limiting access to local traffic only have resulted in huge potholes on a portion of Co. Rd. 641 which had been scheduled for paving yesterday.

“It’s amazing how much damage there can be on the exposed gravel surface,” Wagner said. “One of our workers saw someone blowing through 55 mph.”

Heavy equipment has been placed in the roadway to limit further damage.

“We have to wait at least a couple of days to allow it to dry out. Maybe will be able to get it done sometime next week.”

Then again, maybe not. The National Weather Service extended forecast for Lake Leelanau calls for a 60 percent chance of precipitation tonight and 80 percent likelihood for Friday and Saturday.

Return to top