Lake Michigan Drownings Reach 10-Year High
A summer that featured high winds and rip currents took its toll on the Lake Michigan beaches this summer.
Records for life loss in the Great Lakes is a fairly new statistic, as the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, the non-profit that keeps track of drownings has only been around ten years, but this summer was the deadliest ever on Lake Michigan.
93 people drowned in all five Great Lakes so far in 2020, the most since 2010. 53 of those deaths came in Lake Michigan, making it the deadliest lake.
The reason for that is two-fold.
First, it's the Great Lake with the most people living on it, thanks to population centers like Milwaukee and Chicago.
Second, it gets rocked hard by the predominant northwest winds, which create rip currents, which can swallow inexperienced and experienced swimmers alike, in just seconds.
The Surf Rescue Project posts water safety videos regularly to teach people how to handle dealing with a rip current.
But David Benjamin, the project's executive director recently told the Detroit Free Press that most people just don't think it will ever happen to them in the water, and there's a stigma attached to drowning that it's not the power of the water, but the fault of the swimmer that causes death.
"And when you have the stigma of drowning, you're unknowingly supporting it. You're thinking the drowning couldn't happen to you," Benjamin told the Free Press. "It gets in the way of actual water safety advocacy, it gets in the way of making a difference so this doesn't happen again. It gets in the way of funding because water safety is grossly underfunded compared to other safety programs."
"You can't have this nationwide advertising to bring people to your state, to bring people to your Great Lakes," he added. "You're recruiting people to come to your beaches, and then not provide them the lifeguards, not provide them the public education, not provide them the updated beach signs which are strategically placed on the beach."