On New Year’s Day you missed Lake Erie shifting several feet in a natural phenomenon

A seiche has killed people along the coast in the past

On New Year’s Day you missed Lake Erie shifting several feet in a natural phenomenon
A Lake Erie seiche in the early morning hours of New Year's Day lowered the water level in Toledo, but raised levels in Buffalo. (Source: Michael Dakota)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -You’ve probably never heard of it, but a Lake Erie seiche (pronounced say-shh) struck in first hours of 2019.

Because Lake Erie is the shallowest of all the Great Lakes, it is possible for strong winds to literally push the entire lake from one end to the other.

The night of New Year’s Eve there were extremely high, gale force, winds blowing from the west to the east, gusting to 50 miles an hour.

Strong enough to push the water level lower in Toledo and higher in Buffalo.

“A seiche is exactly the same as storm surge,” Jon Loufman, a Cleveland 19 meteorologist said. “Except the surface water oscillates by sloshing between opposing shores within the lake basin, decreasing in height with each rocking back and forth until it reaches equilibrium.”

Meteorologist Todd Santos at our CBS sister station in Buffalo tweeted that at it’s highest point the water level was up 4.3 feet.

At four feet there was no flooding in Buffalo, but there has been in past seiches.

According to Loufman seiches occur sporadically and can very in severity.

In 1947 a 20 foot wave of water swept over 70 miles of shore line, at estimated speeds of 80 miles an hour, killing seven fisherman from the Geneva-on-the-Lake area to Bay Village.

While no massive wave was reported in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day this year, Loufman said it could have been possible.

“The wind speeds we saw on New Year’s Day could produce 20 foot waves on the ocean, let alone shallow Lake Erie,” Loufman said.

Cleveland saw little to no impact from this

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