While many are heading off to school, some are still enjoying the last bit of summer by spending some time at the beach. This week, we are expecting a low swim risk and green flags through the weekend, but we all know how dangerous Lake Michigan can be – it is considered to be the deadliest Great Lake. Here’s an overview of drownings in the Great Lakes for 2022:
This year alone, the Great Lakes have taken the lives of 84 people with 38 of those deaths being from Lake Michigan. This means that Lake Michigan has been responsible for around 45% of Great Lakes drownings this year, more than double the death toll of any other Great Lake.
Other Great Lakes have similar dangers to those of Lake Michigan, but fewer sandy beaches for people to visit with millions of tourists visiting the lake each year.
Beaches in northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan are the more dangerous with wind from the north and west forming large waves which in turn create swift currents, both very dangerous for swimmers.
Two types of currents to look out for when swimming in Lake Michigan are rip currents and longshore currents.
Rip currents form when waves break near the shore and water from the waves generates fast, narrow currents traveling away from the shoreline. Rip currents usually aren’t very wide – typically less than 80 feet – so the best way to escape the current’s flow if you ever find yourself caught in one is to swim parallel to the shoreline and then back to shore.
Longshore currents form when waves run parallel to shore. Waves that are closer to the shore get slowed down by the beach, creating a buildup of energy. This energy is then released as a swift longshore current.
The main danger with longshore currents comes in when they push swimmers into other hazards, like rip currents or man-made structures. Structures in the water, like piers, can pose the threat of swimmers being pushed up against them, but they can also form currents of their own.
If you decide to head out to the lakeshore as summer wraps up, keep these safety tips in mind.
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