GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Haven State Park closed its swimming area Thursday morning as water conditions became dangerous.
Wave heights reached 6 to 7 feet with winds gusting out of the southwest at 25 to 35 mph. The state park said it would keep an eye on conditions, but they weren’t expected to get better until Friday.
“This is the third time (this summer) we have had to close water access at Grand Haven due to either wave height or rescues in progress,” Andrew Lundborg, Grand Haven State Park supervisor, said.
Lundborg said he has been a part of at least six water rescues so far this year. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there have been 47 water rescues across the five Great Lakes, nine of which have been in West Michigan.
“A lot of people just don’t know the dangers of Lake Michigan,” Grand Haven Department of Public Safety Capt. Lee Adams said.
He said most problems happen when people go past the swim area buoys or get caught in a rip current. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines rip currents as powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that are prevalent along the East, Gulf, and West coasts of the U.S., as well as along the shores of the Great Lakes. Rip currents are currently responsible for 80% of all water rescues.
If you get caught in a rip current, Adams says to remain calm, flip on your back, float until the rip current dies down and follow a safe path out of the water. That path is typically swimming parallel to shore. Those on shore who see someone in trouble should call 911 immediately.
This Fourth of July weekend, state parks should be packed. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources expects an uptick in calls for help.
“We do bring in additional DNR conservation officers as well as state park officers to help with that influx of people and incidents that come up,” Lundborg said.
Adams reminded beachgoers that if they go into the water on a day with rough waves, they are not only endangering themselves, but those who will inevitably have to go in to rescue them. When in doubt, follow the flag system.
“If it’s a red or yellow flag, no not go in the water,” Adams said.