Great Lakes Water Safety Conference to address rip and channel currents safety in Lake Michigan

Local, state and federal agencies are partnering with academia to help communities forecast dangerous currents in Michigan’s Great Lakes.

A Great Lakes Water Safety Conference is scheduled for April 12, 2013 in Gaylord, Michigan. Rip currents and channel currents continue to take the lives of many swimmers each year in the Great Lakes. Many coastal communities continue to work on water safety measures that will help protect swimmers using their beaches. Also, several new projects are underway in the area of education and research on rip currents that will help save lives in the future. All of these will be discussed at this conference.

The National Weather Service will address several of their projects. The National Weather Service Great Lakes incident report compiles statistics related to rip current related fatalities as well as rescues and the geographic areas where most of these dangerous conditions exist. Recent channel current research by the National Weather Service is shedding new light on how these currents, that run parallel to the shore, develop and what geographic areas in the Michigan Great Lakes have these types of currents. In addition, the NOAA Coastal Storm Project will be discussed as it relates to rip currents.

Local, state, and federal agencies that have jurisdiction on the Great Lakes have been involved with programs to ensure the safety of visitors to their beaches that are prone to rip or channel currents. Representative from the Mackinac County Water Safety Review Team, the cities of Marquette and South Haven, Leland Township, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will address these issues. This will provide a forum for communities to learn from each other on what works best in water safety programs. Non-governmental organizations, such as the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, will discuss priorities and progress in the area of community education.

The Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, has funded two projects in Michigan. One of the projects will be led by Michigan Sea Grant—the Dangerous Currents Water Safety Project—that will focus on educational workshops and rip current messaging. The other is a research project being led by Michigan Technological University and the University of Michigan that will focus on advancing rip current forecasting through perishable data recovery and analysis. Both of these projects will be discussed in detail at the conference.

At the end of the conference, there will be discussion on developing a centralized Michigan rip current website that Michigan Sea Grant has agreed to host.

A detailed conference agenda and registration information is available on the Michigan Sea Grant website.

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