Updated: Monday, 20 Apr 2009, 9:34 AM EDT
Published : Friday, 26 Apr 2002, 9:02 AM EST
White beaches and blue water. It's what attracts thousands to Lake Michigan each and every summer some come to swim, work on their tans or cruise the shoreline. Many visitors decide to camp and spend a few evenings watching Lake Michigan sunsets.
But the gentle beauty of Lake Michigan can turn ugly, something Jimmy Thomasma and his wife Joyce discovered first hand. The pair arrived in Grand Haven state park, expecting to leave on May 31. But the weather was so nice they decided to spend one more day soaking up the sunshine.
The decision to stay just one more day would cost them. Early in the morning a storm roared across Lake Michigan, producing winds so powerful they tossed recreational vehicles around like toy cars. "We couldn't get out. We got hit with something, and there was sand blowing by. It happened so quick--all of a sudden I was by the door with my wife in front of me. We found the cat in the back," remembers Jimmy. Their 1600 pound RV was now on its side and partially on top of another camper. The front windshield was their only escape.
"I've never seen that kind of chaos in a campground before," says Dale Rau, the superintendent at Grand Haven State Park. His ten years on the job didn't prepare him for what he saw. "[The storm] was taking big rigs and turning them right over. Thirty-one of them in total. We were very lucky that no one was killed through this. We had some head injuries, broken bones, but considering the force we were lucky."
Beach lovers need to remember that Lake Michigan can spawn some truly awesome weather. So the best advice is to arm yourself with the latest weather warnings-- it could very well save your life.