Strong currents in Lake Michigan make for dangerous swimming, pier conditions

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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- There’s a beach hazard statement for Berrien County through Friday night.

The National Weather Service says rip, structural and longshore currents are all present.

“August will likely be the deadliest month on the Great Lakes, people are getting their final vacations in for the summer,” said Dave Benjamin, Executive Director at Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

2020 was Lake Michigan’s deadliest year with 56 drownings, and there have already been 22 this year. 

Last August, 16 of its drownings happened in that month alone. 

Friday, the lake’s beauty was once again deceptive. 

“Today was a bit of an anomaly, we saw some pretty big waves and big gaps between them and tonight, with wind like this, we’re expecting it to be a yellow flag, maybe red tomorrow,” said Luke Bingaman, Assistant Head Lifeguard at Silver Beach.  

If you’re ever struggling in water, it’s important to pace yourself.

“Flip over on your back and float, keep your head above water, calm yourself down from the panic of drowning and conserve your energy, and then follow a safe path out of the water,” said Benjamin. 

In lieu of deadly pier wash-offs that have happened at Silver Beach this year, lifeguards say you shouldn’t underestimate the structure.   

“The pier is probably the most dangerous thing we have in St. Joe water condition-wise because you can walk out, even with the blue railings, and the waves may not look like they’re getting up there but they can just sweep you off,” said Bingaman.

The National Weather Service said waves could reach four feet Friday night.

Lifeguards said they may switch from yellow to red flags Friday or Saturday.

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