MICHIGAN CITY – Segments of the beach at Washington Park remained underwater and others covered in debris on Tuesday as the city continued working to clean up after Saturday’s storm.
“We got decimated,” MC Parks Superintendent Jeremy Kienitz said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Among the debris that washed ashore were wooden staircases, several signs, tree trunks, tree limbs and a canoe, he said. But the majority was a mixture of seaweed and garbage churned up from the bottom of the lake.
“No ice shelf has formed yet this year; it’s not cold enough,” Kienitz said. “So, the lakeshore is not protected as much as in years past.”
The Street Department has deployed personnel and equipment to the lakefront to help the Parks Department, but it’s been a gradual recovery.
Kienitz said the initial concern was to remove sand and debris from the parking lots and sidewalks.
“The first day, we couldn’t get close to the water because the sand was too soft,” he said. “The equipment would have sunk. You could walk out there and would sink to your ankles.”
But by Tuesday, the two city departments worked together to haul debris away from the shoreline.
“We’re trying to clean it up the best that we can,” Kienitz said.
Although the storm created a huge mess for the city to clean, he noted the loss of city property at Washington Park was relatively small.
The wooden ramp near the boat launch appears to have washed out into the lake; and the winds piled so much sand and debris atop the wooden patio near the volleyball courts that Kienitz is concerned it may not be salvageable.
Water also made its way up to North Pointe Pavilion, but doesn’t appear to have moved inside to cause any damage, he said.
A Lakeshore Flood Watch is in effect Wednesday into Thursday, and a river Flood Warning also remains in effect. Kienitz said increasing winds could cause more damage to the lakefront in the coming days.
“Anytime we get a north wind, and with the high or rising lake levels, we’re going to see this type of erosion at the lakefront and this kind of damage to and debris at the beach,” he said.
Kienitz said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers anticipates Lake Michigan will rise another 5 inches by May, which would surpass the previously recorded high from 1986, when the water reached the front wall in Washington Park.
The park was closed Saturday as a precaution, and Kienitz said he saw some backlash about the decision online.
“We don’t want to keep people out of the park, but it’s safety first,” he said. “We worked alongside Mayor [Duane] Parry, the Michigan City Police Department and the Michigan City Fire Department to close the park because we didn’t want anybody out on the pier.”
The park is open to the public now, but Kienitz said he urges anyone who visits in the coming days to stay off the pier, adhere to the warnings displayed on the electronic signage, pay attention to their surroundings, and steer clear of work crews and their equipment.
In Long Beach, a segment of Lake Shore Drive between stops 21-23 was closed Tuesday.
Clerk-Treasurer Bill DeFuniak said the closure was related to the significant beach erosion in that area, where private yards have been washed away from underneath seawalls and public beaches are under water.
“We’re trying to protect Lake Shore Drive,” he said, “because if the houses fail, the road could flood.”
DeFuniak deferred all questions about the clean-up and repair efforts to Long Beach Building Commissioner Larry Wall, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
However, the official website for the Town of Long Beach states:
“The high lake levels, recent winds and wave action continues to degrade the shoreline, creating dangerous situations – particularly between Stops 21 and 23.
“At this time, five homes near Stop 22 and 23 have experienced failing seawalls and erosion. Lakeshore Drive near Stop 23 is further at risk, and the erosion at Stop 21 has created a hazardous cliff/drop off. Building material from some homes has gone into the lake. One home has been determined to be condemned.
“The Building Commissioner, with support from additional outside experts, members of the Building Commission, Fire Department and other Town officials have been working to proactively address these issues ahead of this weekend’s storm event, and are continuing to respond to the evolving situation.”
More information on steps already taken to address the damage, the town's next steps, and any applicable warnings can be found at longbeachin.org.