Staying Safe on Lake Michigan as Temps Warm
With warm weather finally here, many folks may flock to the beach to stay cool over the coming months. And we want you to stay safe from dangerous swimming conditions this season.
According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there were 97 drownings on the Great Lakes last year. The year prior to that had a record 117 fatalities. Sadly, most of these drownings happen on our nearby pond, Lake Michigan. This year already reports 5 deaths, again the majority on Lake Michigan. The eastern shore is particularly hazardous due to the prevailing wind direction leading to favorable current development. Locally, since 2002, there have been 17 related deaths at Lake Michigan beaches from Sheboygan to Kenosha.
So what can you do to stay safe? Thanks to the National Weather Service, beach forecasts are provided daily, which give a swim risk to help you plan your trip to the beach. These forecasts are called the Surf Zone Forecast (formerly called Recreational Beach Forecast). The program kicked off six days ago and will run until September.
Each day at 4am, the new surf zone forecast will provide conditions for the coming day and night. The forecast will include expected weather conditions, wave heights, water and air temperature, beach winds, UV index along with sunrise and sunset times. Most importantly, the forecast will include a three tier "swim risk" based on waves and wind.
A "Low" swim risk means you are good to go and enjoy a day at the beach using common sense.
A "Moderate" risk implies breaking waves and currents at the beach can be expected. If you see this issued, avoid trouble spots like swimming near piers, breakwalls and river outlets that may provide dangerous currents. It's also recommended that you have some sort of floatation device with you in the water.
A "High" risk would mean life threatening conditions are likely to occur. In this instance, dangerous waves and currents are expected. Please stay out of the water on these type of weather days. It's likely you'll see a Beach Hazards Statement from the NWS as an additional head's up that conditions are not good for heading into the water. Here's an example: Beach Hazard Statement
A second forecast will be posted again at 5pm, for the night and following day to help you plan out your trip.
Here's another link to water safety and information for Lake Michigan: http://www.weather.gov/greatlakes/beachhazards#mkx
Here's to hoping we have a nice long summer season with plenty of beach days ahead!
I'm meteorologist Rebecca Schuld