Erosion Pushes Woman's House to Edge of Cliff Over Lake Michigan

February 07, 2020 - 7:49 pm

(WWJ) Rita Alton is living on the edge — in the most literal sense.

Every morning she gets up, gets dressed and heads outside to see how much closer her home is to tumbling down an 80-foot cliff into Lake Michigan.

"This is the only home I have," Alton told WWJ's Michael Cohen. "I'm sure there's going to be a point when I'm going to have a knock at the door and they're going to tell me I have to get out."

Alton said when her father was building the house, back in 1951, there was more than an acre of land between the brick bungalow and the drop-off overlooking the lake and its towering waves.

But, she says, erosion of the clay bluff has accelerated dramatically as state officials say the lake is approaching its highest levels in recorded history — likely in connection to the warming climate.

Alton said she's been reaching out to everyone she can think of for help, to no avail.

"I have contacted the governor's office several times; I've been calling them once a week about this, because I was trying to get a state of emergencies," Alton said. "I have written to the president about this horrific problem with the shoreline, because it's not only affecting me, it's affecting the whole state of Michigan."

Forecasters expect the lakes to remain high well into 2020; and, with no relief in sight Alton admits, she will have to leave.

Where to, she doesn't know. 

"I'll be a couch surfer. You know what that is," she said. "I'll have nowhere."