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Storm poses threat of beach erosion, park trail dangers | News

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Storm poses threat of beach erosion, park trail dangers

GRAND HAVEN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- A powerful storm comes at a time when Lake Michigan is higher than it's been in years.

Water levels have risen more than three feet since January 2013, which has already affected the shoreline. WZZM 13 is now looking at how this storm could further erode West Michigan beaches and lead to a dangerous situation at local park trails.

Damaging 60-mph gusts possible in fall storm

Related: Monster 12- to 18-foot waves possible on Lake Michigan

Ottawa County park officials showed WZZM 13 how Lake Michigan's water line could significantly increase at Kirk Park. Bob Reichel, operations manager for the Ottawa County Parks Department, stood on the sand with WZZM 13's Alex Shabad.

"We could be into knee-deep water right here," Reichel told WZZM 13.

Fortunately, people can stay away from Lake Michigan, but the sand dunes can't. Reichel showed WZZM 13 the damage Lake Michigan did to the dunes in a previous storm.

"There's like a debris line from a couple weeks ago, when we had a pretty good storm," says Reichel. "This is the big one," Reichel said about the latest storm expected to hit the lakeshore.

Reichel told WZZM 13 the beach "could look considerably different tomorrow."

Higher lake levels and a powerful wind storm are a combination not seen in years.

"Picture the lake as being a giant bowl, and then that bowl tipping to one side; so basically the lake level is going to increase on this side or the windward side of the lake, so that's what is going to cause a lot of this beach erosion," says Reichel.

The park trails are also a big concern.

"Any weakened big limbs that are up here have the potential to come down," says Reichel. "The biggest potential of danger is if something gets snapped off high and gets hung up."

Some of the man-made structures near the park trails aren't safe from falling trees, either.

Back at the beach, all Reichel can do now is wait.

"In the short term, there will be a loss of beach; in the long term, you never know -- we may gain some beach because it will deposit more sand," says Reichel.