Expect red flags at W. MI beaches this weekend

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s a quiet Friday afternoon on the Grand Haven Channel for Ottawa County Marine Deputies Dan Gillett and Jeff Hoogawind.

They’re hoping it stays that way.

Drownings and rescues from South Haven to Ludington in recent weeks suggests that could change at any time.

Combine a warm weekend and a wind out of the south, and you have the potential for danger on the water.

“My anticipation is we’ll be looking at yellow and red flags this weekend,” said Ottawa County Sheriff’s Sgt. Eric Westveer.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Weather alerts| Beach and Boating Forecast

Westveer heads up the office’s marine division.

He says the biggest concerns are for those who aren’t familiar with the lake.

“It’s vacationers that says ‘hey, look at those waves. That looks fun. Let’s go play,’” Westeveer said. “And with those winds, they expect speeds of up to 14 miles an hour. When you get winds like that, the increase of rip currents, structural currents and longshore currents increase.”

Those currents can carry you along, zapping your energy as you fight to swim against the tide.  

“The biggest thing you want to remember, first is to relax. Ride to the current out till it ends, then swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of it and can bring yourself back in to shore,” Westveer said.

Due to record-high lake levels, deputies will also be watching the piers.

“The water’s only a couple of inches off the top of that pier head,” Westveer said. “You start getting waves that are one, two feet and greater. The likelihood and chance you’ll be washed off that pier are quite high.”

The Ottawa County Marine Division will have extra patrols up and down the shoreline this weekend.

They’ll also have help from Allegan County’s Marine Patrol. 

The best step you can take to protect you and your family is to watch the color-coded flags along the beach, advising you of conditions on the water.

A green flag means the water is safe. Yellow indicates folks should use caution. A red flag means people should not enter the water.

“My anticipation is we’ll be looking at yellow and red flags this weekend,” Westveer said. 

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