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For decades, waves have eaten away at Lake Michigan’s beaches. Roads and houses that once seemed safely distant from the shore now teeter at the water’s edge.

Geof Benson is president of the town council in Beverly Shores, Indiana, a small lakeside town east of Chicago.

“I like to say we’re sort of the poster child of erosion because it’s been happening here for so long,” he says.

Climate change is making the problem even worse. Lake levels fluctuate naturally, but as the region sees more rain and heavy storms, the highs and lows are growing more extreme.

And as winters warm, more of the lake remains ice-free, leaving the shoreline exposed to strong storm waves.

“Historically in the winter, we have shelf ice. It gets so cold, and ice will protect the shoreline,” Benson says. “And this year we had none.”

This past winter, lake levels were extremely high and storms destroyed more than 40 feet of Beverly Shores’ beach – washing away hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of sandbags that were intended to reduce the damage.

Benson says protecting places like Beverly Shores will take money and engineering. But if left unchecked, erosion will devastate some small coastal towns.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Weather Extremes