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Lake Erie, Great Lakes water levels much higher than May historical average

By Kelly Reardon,

CLEVELAND, Ohio - It's not your imagination; Lake Erie water levels are up.

The recent wet spell pushed Lake Erie's water levels this week to 22 inches above the long-term normal for May. But the water is still 4 inches shy of the highest monthly average of the record for May, which is how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers keeps tabs on water levels.

Water levels are measured, and forecast, weekly for the Great Lakes. However, water level comparisons and official records are calculated monthly. For May 11, the last weekly update, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicted Lake Erie to reach 573.69 inches. That's right around the level this time last year, but is still short of the May record set in 1986.

Lake Ontario is 9 inches above the historical May average, while Lake Michigan-Huron is 17 inches and Lake Superior, 6 inches.

The Army Corps of Engineers says the Great Lakes water levels are "all above their long-term average May levels." Lake Superior is 1 inch lower than it was at this time last year, but Lake Michigan-Huron is 6 inches above the level last year. Along with Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair is at the same level it was this time in 2017.

The historically high water levels are in part due in part to the region's wet April. Cleveland saw 4.38 inches of rain that month, over 20 percent more than normal. Since May 1, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport has already seen seven days of rain accumulating a total over 2 inches. But temperature plays a part too, as when water warms it expands, raising the water line.

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