DETROIT (AP) -- A survey of snowpack around the Lake Superior basin shows low levels that may send Great Lakes water levels to their lowest points in history.
''The entire western and southern shores had no snow,'' said Tom Carroll, a government scientist who coordinated the survey. ''I don't think we've ever done the survey and not had any snow.''
That has people who watch lake levels recalculating earlier forecasts.
''It's not a good sign,'' Roger Gauthier, chief hydrologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Detroit District Office, told the Detroit Free Press for a story Saturday.
''We may be looking at the possibility there will be record low lake levels. Before, we were just saying that there may be near-record lows.''
Lake Superior's shoreline in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin normally would be covered with deep snow containing up to a foot of water. But this year, there is little or no snow, meaning less water when it melts to replenish the lakes.
About 40 percent of Lake Superior's annual water supply comes from the snowpack around its shores. Lakes Michigan and Huron get up to 30 percent of their yearly supply from Superior's snowmelt when it flows into the lower lakes. And Lake St. Clair gets 95 percent of its supply from Lake Huron.
Water levels in the lakes are down about 40 inches over the past three years.
Previous forecasts estimated Lake St. Clair would dip 8-10 more inches this year. The meager Lake Superior snowpack means the drop is likely to be closer to a foot.
''Even if we have a wet spring, it's not going to bring it up,'' Gauthier said.
The National Weather Service is calling for precipitation near or below average during the next 90 days for most of Michigan.
Lake St. Clair water levels also are likely to peak earlier than normal this summer.
Usually, the lake would reach its highest level the first week of July. This year, it will probably peak the first week of June, Gauthier said, meaning the time when the lake starts to go down also will come earlier -- during the prime season for recreational boaters.
''If boaters do get their boats in early, they better watch carefully the forecasts so they're able to get their boats out,'' Gauthier said.
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