Manitowoc South Pier Light washed into Lake Michigan

Waves crash around the light tower of the Manitowoc South Pier Light Jan. 7, 2019. (Photo submitted by Ann Barbeau)

MANITOWOC, Wis. (WLUK) -- Strong winds and waves knocked a navigation light off the south pier of the Manitowoc Breakwater Monday morning.


“I turned to both sides and looked around and then I kind of cleared my eyes to see if I was really seeing what I saw,” said Ann Barbeau of Manitowoc.

Barbeau saw and documented the large wave that washed away the navigation light just before 9 a.m. She says she normally takes photographs of Lake Michigan when storms are in the forecast.

“It floated probably for about five, six seconds and then it sank after that,” Barbeau said of the light beacon.

As quickly as Barbeau's pictures were shared on social media, people started flocking to the shoreline.

“I want to try to catch a glimpse of it, just like poking up, but I don't think that will happen,” said Max Maurer of Manitowoc.

As a consolation, people were treated throughout the day to waves almost as big as the one that knocked out the light beacon.

“It's a surfer's dream,” said Maurer.

Maurer isn't kidding. Hours after the light washed away, surfers were enjoying a January day on the water.

“Looks pretty dangerous to me,” said Laura Docter of Manitowoc.


The light beacon flashed green every two and a half seconds to help boaters see where the harbor is.

The Coast Guard says luckily this happened at a time of year when there aren't a lot of boats out on the water that need the light.

“There is just not a lot of traffic this time of year, so I think the soonest we'll probably try to address another beacon would be the springtime, but that’s all dependent on our engineers and funding and so on,” said Chief Eric Olson of the Coast Guard’s Two Rivers station.

In the meantime, once the water calms down, the Coast Guard plans to see if it can find the lost light.

The larger lighthouse on the north pier of the breakwater is still standing.

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