HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — On July 13, 1938, five people were killed after a type of tsunami hit Holland. Eighty-five years later, researchers say meteotsunamis in the Great Lakes occur more than some may think.

Unlike tsunamis created by earthquakes, meteotsunamis are caused by weather events such as severe thunderstorms and squalls.

“Where it could actually create like a tidal wave, a big wave of water that’s going to come across the lake and hit the shoreline,” said Dave Benjamin, co-founder of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

While they’re considered relatively rare, researchers say the Great Lakes averages 106 meteotsunamis each year.

Dave Benjamin, a co-founder of the GLSRP said the vast majority aren’t noticeable and don’t become fatal, but they can carry that potential. He pointed to a meteotsunami that hit Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer 20 years ago.

“It was the 4th of July, where seven people drowned in one afternoon because of the storm that had come through,” Benjamin said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the uncertainties surrounding meteotsunamis make them difficult to predict and warn people ahead of time, but scientists have identified the conditions likely to cause a meteotsunami and are working toward finding ways to forecast them.

“I think we should definitely invest in researching these events just so we can understand them better,” Benjamin said. “You never know what you might discover from the research that’s being done. On the flip side, I think we really do need to invest more in water safety for public education, public rescue equipment and lifeguards. That really should have a high priority,” Benjamin said.

Beachgoers are urged to be cautious when they see the weather is worsening.

“If there’s lightning, you should definitely get off the beach and those are also weather events that are going to be accompanying these storms,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin said meteotsunamis can also produce dangerous currents. He said if you’re struggling with water that is above your head, you should flip over on your back, float and follow a safe path out of the water.