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Lake Superior sets record for low water

"I've been here since 1959 and this is the lowest I've seen it," Joel Johnson, owner of Lakehead Boat Basin in Duluth, Minn.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Drought and mild temperatures have pushed Lake Superior's water level to its lowest point on record for this time of year, continuing a downward spiral across the Great Lakes. (Click Image to learn more)

Preliminary data show Superior's average water level in September dipped 1.6 inches beneath the previous low for that month reached in 1926, Cynthia Sellinger, deputy director of NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, said Sunday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which uses a different measuring technique, calculated the September level at 4 inches below the record, said Scott Thieme, chief of hydraulics and hydrology for the Detroit district office.

It's the first time in 81 years that the biggest and deepest of the lakes has reached a new monthly low, Sellinger said. The Army Corps recorded Superior as also setting a record by a half-inch in August. But the NOAA lab had the lake at slightly above its record level then.

Either way, the lake has plummeted over the past year and has dipped beneath its long-term average level for a decade — the longest such period in its known history.

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