What do those Flags at the Beach Mean?
Each year, when the beaches open on the Great Lakes, it's a good opportunity to give people a refresher on how to be as safe as possible. Last year was a substantially choppy year on Lake Michigan in particular, and it resulted in more than 100 drownings. Exceeding the number from 2021.
This year, beachgoers are hoping for more favorable conditions, and in general, a much safer year on the water. So, let's talk about safety on the shores of Lake Michigan.
What do the Flags mean?
It's a relatively simple system if you're familiar with a stoplight, but there are some nuances that go beyond just Red, Yellow, and Green.
Pretty easy to ascertain what this one means. Green is good to go. No immediate dangers in the water, and you're free to swim without issue.
This indicates a medium hazard with the water. Maybe some moderate surf, or there could be an undercurrent somewhere along the beach. It's not uncommon to see a yellow flag between green flags, as this might indicate said undercurrent, or rip current.
If you're a skilled swimmer, then you might be OK to swim some, but I wouldn't recommend going too deep into the water.
Simple enough - High Hazard, There's high surf, or strong currents in the area of these flags, and you are HIGHLY discouraged from going into the water. And it doesn't have to be bad weather for these flags to be out. It can be a perfectly nice day in South Haven, or at the Saugatuck Dunes. But if you see these flags out, it means the water is dangerous. Doesn't mean you can't still get some tanning in on the beach, though.
Yep, there's something worse. This means that water access is fully closed.
Singular red flags only mean it's a recommendation. The Double Red Flags mean, DO NOT go into the water.
And NOW, there are actual laws that you could be prosecuted for, if you do go into the water, while these flags are out.
Ultimately, if you're on the beaches this summer, pay attention to the flags, and be safe. And if you see or hear someone in an official capacity telling you something... listen to them.
Have a safe summer Michiganders.