Great Lakes Dangerous Currents display to be featured at U.P. State Fair

Beachgoers can learn to identify dangerous currents, methods of escape.

Water rescue equipment at an Upper Peninsula Great Lakes beach. Ronald Kinnunen | Michigan Sea Grant

Water rescue equipment at an Upper Peninsula Great Lakes beach. Ronald Kinnunen | Michigan Sea Grant

Beachgoers will have an opportunity to learn about dangerous currents that exist in the Great Lakes at a Dangerous Currents display at the U.P. State Fair. The fair is held Aug. 17-23, 2015, in Escanaba. The Dangerous Currents display was developed by Michigan Sea Grant and will be at the Michigan State University Extension exhibits in the Miracle of Life Educational Pavilion. There are five types of dangerous currents that exist in the Great Lakes including rip, structural, longshore, outlet, and channel currents. Each of these currents have unique characteristics requiring different methods for escape.

You may have heard about the rip tide or undertow. These are terms that people commonly use to describe dangerous currents. However, there are no tides in the Great Lakes, and currents cannot pull a person under the water. Instead, swimmers in the Great Lakes are most likely to encounter one of these five common currents. The currents can be very dangerous, especially as most people don’t suspect there are such strong currents in the Great Lakes.

Currents in the Great Lakes form from combinations of wind, waves, bottom formation, beach slope, water temperature, man-made structures and natural outlets. Dangerous current-related fatalities have occurred along beaches in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. The highest number of deaths and rescues happen in Michigan.

Dangerous currents can exhaust even the best swimmers — even Olympic swimmers can’t swim against these powerful currents.

Parents should encourage their children to visit the Dangerous Currents Display as children are at a higher risk of drowning in the Great Lakes. When at the display please pick up the free educational cards on dangerous currents water safety tips and how to be a Water Watcher.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs

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