Dangerous Currents at Lake Michigan Today


There is a good chance that dangerous currents will develop on Lake Michigan today (Wed.). The NWS has issued a Beach Hazards Statement and there will be Small Craft Advisories until 3 am Thu.

We are forecasting 15-20 mph SW winds and 3-5 foot waves. it’s going to be a warm and humid day and while there is a chance of a random storm, much of the day will be dry, with storms holding off until the evening. The warm weather means many people will head to the lake.

Structural Current

The graphic above shows what we think is going to happen today. The strong south to southwest wind will push the water toward the pier (it’s actually a breakwater or breakwall – a pier allows water to flow underneath – like the big piers you see along the Florida Panhandle and in California). The water can’t go through the pier and can’t go up on the beach (or up or down). When you have a solid breakwall, the only place it can go is away from shore toward the middle of the lake and around the pier. Click this link for more on rip and structural currents.

When the wind is south or southwest, the south sides of the piers can have a dangerous current and with a north wind, the north side of the piers can develop this dangerous current.

Dangerous currents that can develop when there is a strong wind on the Great Lakes

With a gusty southwest wind tomorrow, the pier at Grand Haven State Park is susceptible to an offshore structural current. With a SW wind there would be less chance of a structural current at Holland St. Park. South Haven’s Beach (south of the channel) may also develop a structural current tomorrow.

So, don’t jump off or swim near the south sides of the piers and breakwaters tomorrow. It’s important enough to repeat…DO NOT SWIM NEAR OR JUMP OFF THE PIERS TODAY – or anytime there is a strong wind.

Most piers on inland lakes allow water to go underneath the pier and inland lakes would generally be a safer place to swim today.

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