Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Deadly Summer on Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan wavew
Lake Michigan (photo by JHY)

by JHY

This past year has been unusually dangerous for swimmers and boaters on Lake Michigan. The Coast Guard reporting year runs from October 1 to Sept 30, and during the period just ending there were 66 drownings.

This includes rivers and tributaries which feed the lake, in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Since October 1, there have been an additional two drownings in Ludington. Charles Wolfson, US Coast Guard civilian search and rescue coordinator stated that the usual number of deaths per year is closer to 40.

Ten of the deaths have been attributed to rip currents raised on windy days. Many adults seem to feel that the warning flags pertain to children, but not to them, reported Ottawa County sheriff's Sgt. Keith Koeman. Most officials agree that part of the cause is the high temperatures, which enticed many people into the big lake, when they were unfamiliar with its dangers.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Lauren Jorgensen said, "People think of Lake Michigan as a lake, but they should really be thinking about it like an ocean. Conditions can deteriorate very quickly."

The National Weather service reported that the number of high-risk days for rip currents this summer was 42 from June through August, while last year the number was 43. Their conclusion is that the key factor must be something other than rip currents.

No matter the causes, anyone who ventures into or out on Lake Michigan needs to consider the special risks in a large body of water.

See Manistee Drowning- What You Should Do in a Rip Current
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