Holiday weekend brings dangerous swimming conditions on Lake Michigan

NOW: Holiday weekend brings dangerous swimming conditions on Lake Michigan

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- There are many ways to spend Independence Day, but if you’re planning on heading to Lake Michigan, the National Weather Service has an important warning.

They’ve issued a beach hazard statement for Berrien County through 3 a.m. Saturday, citing wind and currents that could be life threatening.

“This morning when we got here, we all sort-of chuckled because it was supposed to be a red flag today, but it was perfectly flat, but we’ve been up there since 11 a.m. and already had to change the flag from green to yellow because the waves built so much,” said Luke Bingaman, Assistant Head Guard at Silver Beach in St. Joseph.

Despite the weather feeling favorable, lifeguards are asking visitors to trust the flag color they choose for water conditions.

“When we say stay out of the water it’s not because we like the authority or it makes us feel powerful, we’re trying to keep you safe because the water is a very dangerous place, even if it looks calm there are still hazards you can’t see on the surface – currents could be underwater, a lot of people underestimate sandbars the way they can drop off at a moment’s notice and take especially small children by surprise,” said Bingaman.

Just about all park staff will spend the holiday working to keep the beach safe, but there are ways you can look out for yourself. 

“Look after your kids, the lifeguards’ main focus is the lake so you have to be responsible for yourself, come here hydrated too, when it’s really hot people can easily pass out from the heat,” said Jaysen Field, Environmental Property Manager for Silver Beach County Park.

Which allows the lifeguards to keep their eyes on the water and help a swimmer if needed. 

“Especially if the water is hazardous, we don’t want to have to take our attention off the beach to handle someone who cut their foot on broken glass, or someone walking their dog along the beach, or people trying to launch a watercraft in the swim zone, because that’s one guard who’s not watching the water,” said Bingaman.

A reminder on the rules at Silver Beach, you can’t have glass or alcohol and dogs should only be walked on the sidewalk.

Remember, there aren’t any fireworks this year and personal ones aren’t allowed to be set off either.

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