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Boreal Emergency Preparedness Portal

Be Aware of Beach Hazards and these water safety tips

Jun 07, 2022 07:31AM ● By Editor
From the National Weather Service • Duluth MN • June 7, 2022
Adapted from Meteorologist Kimberly Newman from WNDU-TV

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO to the Great Lakes this summer. 

 

Tip #1: Know the swim risk before you head to the beach. 

The NWS issues a beach forecast (also known as the surf zone forecast) during the swim season that will alert you to when dangerous waves and currents are expected at the beaches. On high swim risk days, a beach hazards statement is issued to alert swimmers about life-threatening conditions on the lake. In addition to checking the forecast, you should also check with local authorities regarding potential beach closures. Otherwise, you can find the beach forecasts, safety information, statistics, and more by visiting our regional beach hazards page at www.weather.gov/Greatlakes/beachhazards 

BE CAUTIOUS IN COLD WATER:


Tip #2: The air temperatures may be warm, but the water temperatures in the Great Lakes may not be, especially this time of year. 

Temps can be as cold as the 40s and 50s, which can cause hypothermia within 1 hour. Did you know that suddenly entry into cold water (falling or jumping) can lead to cold water shock? Drowning can be instantaneous. Wearing a life jacket significantly increases your survival chances. For more information on cold water and hypothermia, visit www.weather.gov/safety/

STAY DRY WHEN WAVES ARE HIGH:

 

Tip #3: Stay dry when waves (and water levels) are high. 

Waves on the Great Lakes can be chaotic, they come in fast and close together. This can make it hard or nearly impossible to swim. Dangerous currents are also more likely once waves are 3 feet high or more. The wave and current combination can be deadly! Waves can also wash you off of shoreline structures like piers and breakwalls. Use extra caution this year, as water levels are much higher on the Great Lakes, so water may flow over piers or breakwalls even during benign conditions. If you can’t resist swimming and jumping in waves, at least wear a life jacket so that if you get tired, you can stay afloat. 

WEAR A LIFE JACKET:

 

Tip #4: Don’t just bring your life jacket. Wear it! 


DESIGNATE A WATER WATCHER:

 

Tip #5: Designate an adult whose sole responsibility is to monitor swimmers in the water. 

Drowning is silent, it isn’t always like the movies where there is yelling and splashing. It happens fast, often with no commotion. Learn what signs to watch for. 

STEER CLEAR OF THE PIER:

 

Tip #6: Steer clear of the pier…or any pier-like structure, really. 

High waves can wash you off, and strong structural currents can carry you far out into deeper water. With water levels being so much higher than normal on the Great Lakes, water may flow over the structure even during benign conditions, possibly causing a slip or fall. 

LEARN THE TYPES OF DANGEROUS CURRENTS:

 

Tip #7: Do you know the various types of dangerous currents present on the Great Lakes? 

Rip currents, structural currents, and outlet currents carry you away from the beach, while channel currents and longshore currents carry you parallel to (along) the beach. Tune in tonight to see how to escape a dangerous current. For more information, including diagrams of each current type, visit www.dangerouscurrents.org 

FLIP, FLOAT, FOLLOW:

Tip #8: Do you know how to escape a dangerous current? 

Flip on your back, float, and follow the safest path out of the water. What is the safest path out of the water? It depends on what the situation is. You can try to swim to the side of the current, then once you are out of it swim back to shore. If you are in a structural current near a pier, try to swim to a ladder if one is available. If you can’t escape or are becoming exhausted, keep floating! Follow the current, don’t fight it.



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