Michiganders are gearing up for beach trips this summer, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced a change to its Great Lakes flag warning system. The Great Lakes are no joke when it comes to the risks they pose for swimmers. They have dangerous currents like rip and structural currents, along with high waves and other treacherous wave conditions.
Recently, the DNR announced that double red warning flags are not in place at state-designated swim beaches across the Great Lakes in Michigan state parks. When you see those double red flags flying high, it’s a clear sign that water access is off-limits, and you should definitely stay out of the water.Related: Michigan Has the Deadliest Lake in the U.S.
The DNR started using this more intense level of the flag system in 2022 to signal the most severe and dangerous conditions. If you come across those double red flags at Michigan state parks along the Great Lakes, it’s a solid warning to keep yourself safe and find another way to enjoy the beach.
Great Lakes Safety
“We actively reevaluate our safety measures and public education efforts, especially when it comes to Great Lakes safety,” DNR Parks and Recreation chief Ron Olson said in a statement. “Many people underestimate the power of the Great Lakes and don’t always understand how quickly even the most experienced swimmer can get into a life-threatening situation and swept away.”
There have been over 1,170 drownings on the Great Lakes
The rise in accidents and drownings on the Great Lakes caught the attention of the DNR, prompting them to step up their efforts in public safety education. Since 2010, there have been over 1,170 drownings on the Great Lakes, and a shocking 108 of those happened in just 2022, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
Last year, officials introduced the flag warning system, but it’s this year that they have everything in place. Pat Whalen, the district supervisor for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, mentioned that the system has now been fully implemented at all state-designated swim beaches in around 30 state parks along the Great Lakes.
There’s a DNR Land Use Order, known as 5.1.6, which actually makes it illegal to enter the water from a state-designated swim beach when there are risks to human health and safety. These risks include severe weather events identified by the National Weather Service, hazardous waves or dangerous water conditions, ongoing rescue or recovery operations, and even environmental hazards.
More information about the flag warning system and water safety can be found here.