Beach hazard issued with high waves, rip currents expected

Photo: Jeff Wald / MGN
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MICHIGAN CITY, Mich. (AP) -- Stay out of the water.

That’s the word from the National Weather Service, which is warning people about dangerously high waves and flooding expected along the Lake Michigan shoreline the next couple of days.

The Weather Service says a beach hazard warning is in effect through Monday afternoon for Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan.

People visiting beaches should not go in the water, and should use extra caution if walking out on structures like piers or breakwalls.

High winds are also expected to cause strong rip currents and life-threatening waves. And officials say lakeshore flooding is expected in some areas, including Chicago’s lakefront path.

In Chicago, police say a man died early Saturday when a large wave swept him into the lake at North Avenue Beach. Crews searched for the man for about two hours before finding him. They said waves were as high as 10 feet.

“I hoped the Great Lakes drownings would subside after the 13 Labor Day weekend fatalities, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon,” said Dave Benjamin, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “This year is on track to be the worst year on record for the Great Lakes.”

A total of 96 drownings have been reported on the Great Lakes this year, 33 in Lake Michigan. Benjamin calls drownings a public health crisis.

“I cannot stress enough that drowning really is a public health issue that needs to be treated like a public health issue. A water safety school curriculum needs to be mandated and funded in the Great Lakes region as well as nationwide. Great Lakes drownings are just the tip of the iceberg of the nationwide drowning crisis.”

The Weather Service on Saturday issued a beach hazards statement that will be in effect from Sunday morning through Monday afternoon for La Porte and Berrien counties.

High waves will make swimming dangerous, and strong rip currents are also expected, according to NWS.

Strong structural currents along piers and breakwalls will also make visiting those areas dangerous, with northeast winds of 15 to 25 mph generating waves of 3-6 feet on Sunday through Monday afternoon.

Anyone visiting the beach is warned to “stay out of the water.”