The Great Lakes are beautiful, but they can be deadly too.

I've been reading a lot recently about drownings in Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. I grew up on Lake Michigan in St. Joe. Water safety is something I learned early on in my life, especially with Lake Michigan a five-minute bike ride from my childhood home.

I can recall several drownings at Silver Beach and Tiscornia Beach. The undertows on these beaches are very strong, and it can be a challenge if you get caught in one. Unsuspecting swimmers that are not familiar with undertows are at a greater risk.

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What is a undertow? According to merriam-webster.com, an undertow is a "current beneath the surface that sets seaward or along the beach when waves are breaking upon the shore." Or, "an underlying current, force, or tendency that is in opposition to what is apparent."

I know that at Silver Beach and Tiscornia Beach, the lifeguards do raise warning flags when it is not safe to swim. They do the same in Ludington, Grand Haven, Muskegon, South Haven and Lakeside County Park. The best advice that I can give is, if the caution flags are flying, do not enter the water.

In the event that you do get caught in an undertow, this is what you should do according to scijinks.gov.

Stay afloat, yell for help, swim parallel to the shore. Do not exhaust yourself fighting the current.

You don't want to exhaust all of your energy. Stay calm the best that you can until help arrives.

Check out scijinks.gov for more safety tips.

Drownings are very common in the Great Lakes, here are some numbers from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Check out their website for more info.

2022 = 25 (+6 unknown final outcome)
Lake Michigan = 13 (+1 unknown final outcome)
Lake Superior = 0
Lake Huron = 1
Lake Erie = 5 (+3 unknown final outcomes)
Lake Ontario = 6 (+1 missing)

2021 = 100
Lake Michigan = 48 (+2 unknown final outcome)
Lake Superior = 5
Lake Huron = 13
Lake Erie = 22 (+3 unknown final outcomes)
Lake Ontario = 12

2020 = 108
Lake Michigan = 56 (+1 unknown condition)
Lake Superior = 2
Lake Huron = 11
Lake Erie = 19
Lake Ontario = 21 (+1 unknown condition +1 missing)

If the warning flags are raised, don't enter the water. It's not worth the risk. Have a great summer and use common sense. I don't want you to lose your life.

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