High water on Lake Erie brings danger of rip tides, drownings

Lake Erie may seem calm and collected most days, but the high water has been dangerous to swimmers, causing a change in currents and the peril of rip tides.

Catawba Island Volunteer Fire and Police Departments were recently called to Gem Beach. They responded to a possible drowning incident, and rip tides may have been the culprit. Bystanders formed a human chain in hopes of finding the missing man. Search divers recovered him in approximately 90 minutes after arriving on the scene.

He was transported by ProMedica by helicopter, and a resuscitation efforts were not successful.

This brings to light the recent drownings that have happened along the coast of Lake Erie, where high water, currents and rip tides have been prevalent. Two separate drownings of young people at Nickel Plate Beach in recent weeks have led the City of Huron to close the beach. While the National Weather Service has been issuing beach hazard statements for Lake Erie, does the public recognize the dangers?
The question of how can we get an effective message out to the public comes to mind. With this being the third death of the summer at this beach, what can be done to protect the swimmers?

Many of the smaller beaches around do not have lifeguards like Nickle Plate Beach. Putting a lifeguard on the beach would help in dangerous situations. Having designated swim zones could also help keep beachgoers safe.

Being a vacation destination attracts people from all over, and for some, it may be the first time they have been swimming in open water. Many do not know the dangers that Lake Erie can hold. Before your next beach visit take the time to look up lake conditions and take the extra precautions when entering the water.

According to the National Weather Service, rip currents tend to form at low spots like breaks or sandbars. They also typically form near structures like jetties and piers. Rip currents are channeled currents that flow away from the shore that can be very powerful.

With the high water and strong winds this makes for perfect conditions for rip currents on Lake Erie. If you get caught in one of these don’t panic and don’t try to fight it. The current that these rips cause are just single channels. Float on your back or tread water until someone can help or swim perpendicular with the shore to help you get out of the current.

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