Winds and waves wash away Manitowoc lighthouse beacon

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MANITOWOC, Wis. (WBAY) -- Strong winds and waves washed away the South Pier Lighthouse navigational beacon in Manitowoc Monday.

The 20-foot tall tower was under control of the Coast Guard, which confirmed the structure was wiped out during gusty southeast winds, which reached up to 40 mph, creating some serious waves.

"With the right swell and the wind direction and the duration that it’s been building last night, the waves got very large and the direction was directly into the break wall," said Chief Eric Olson who is on the aids and navigation team for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Chief Olson says the Coast Guard will need to wait until the waters are calm, likely in the spring, to replace the beacon.

"Even without the waves, in the winter time we usually have ice. So, I would say winter time will delay any kind of a rebuild," said Chief Olson.

Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels posted about it on social media.

"We can now add this to our upcoming attractions in our Marine Sanctuary along with the shipwrecks," Nickels wrote.

The mayor's warning: Stay off the water Monday. It's very choppy.

Ann Barbeau captured a series of photos showing the beacon being engulfed by a wave and disappearing, leaving only its foundation.

"That has to be one of the craziest things I ever saw!" she posted to Facebook. "My mind is still trying to wrap around it! As I'm sitting there in rapid fire taking pictures I'm thinking I wonder how good that thing is bolted down? Just as I pressed the shutter button in that moment as the wave cleared, nothing was standing there, I looked around me with my mouth to the ground thinking am I seeing this right... I started freaking out, I saw it floating for a few seconds, went back to look at my pictures to see if I got it and I did every 2 seconds of it! I was super excited and sad in the same moment. What a crazy day!"