Hi Mary Pat,
I don’t really have an etiquette question for you, but I’m hoping you can help me answer a question. My friend says that swimming in Lake Michigan is way safer than swimming in the ocean, but I’ve heard locals talking about rip currents. Do you know?
Dear Swimming Safely,
Some might consider Lake Michigan safer to swim in (no sharks!), however, it is a powerful body of water. Swimmers should always exercise caution whether they are in a pool, an ocean, a pond or a lake. You did hear correctly about the rip currents. They can be just as powerful in the lake as in the ocean. Even experienced swimmers can get caught in a rip current. Definition of a rip current taken from the NOAA.gov website: “Rip currents are powerful, fast-moving channels of water (up to 8 feet per second) that typically flow from the shoreline to beyond the area where waves break. They can form on any beach or lake shore where waves are breaking, often near sandbars, jetties and piers.”
Below are a couple of tips from the United States Coast Guard site. For more information, here is a link to a section of the website dedicated to the Great Lakes, greatlakes.coastguard.dodlive.mil. There is also more info on the NOAA.gov website at noaa.gov/features/monitoring_0609/ripcurrent.html.
If you get caught in a rip current:
• Don’t fight the current.
• Keep calm.
• Swim out of the current (usually by swimming parallel with the shoreline). Once you are out of the current, swim to shore.
• If you can’t escape the rip current, tread water or float.
• Wave for help.
Just like most situations, the more you know, the better prepared you are if something should go wrong. Be safe everyone!