Swimming in Lake Michigan and other lakes and rivers in Michiana is a popular summertime activity, but it can also be dangerous.
Rip currents can pose a threat to swimmers.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has named this week as a “Rip Current Awareness Week.”
In the light of recent water related deaths along Michiana rivers and lakes, there is a heightened awareness of swimming safety in local waterways.
The shorelines of Indiana and southwest Michigan have been historically highlighted as one of the most dangerous areas in the country for rip currents, according to a study published in 2011 that looked at deaths caused by rip tides in the U.S.
There are a few ways to identify these dangerous tides from the shore. Scan the shoreline to see if there is a distinct break in the waves, as that indicates the neck of the tide. There is also often a discolored patch of water.
Rain can make swimming in lakes especially dangerous. Lake floors and water patterns can change drastically in the few days that follow a heavy rain. Roughly three days after a large rain is often the most dangerous time to swim near the shore or off of a boat.
Red “do not swim” flags on beaches can signal unknown patterns in the water. Recreational Beach Forecasts and Beach Hazards Statements by the NOAA can also be found online.
If caught in a rip current, turn to a 90-degree angle and swim parallel to the shore instead of straight back. Most deaths occur when swimmers are too tired to fight against the current and have already overworked themselves trying to get back.