Beach Safety - Lake Erie
Already in 2019, there have been 7 fatalities on Lake Erie. Most people don’t realize that a lake can become extremely deadly and dangerous during the right weather conditions.
There is more than meets the eye when you venture out onto Lake Erie. The lake has a number of hazards which can become dangerous very quickly. For example, did you know that Lake Erie can produce a dangerous rip current, just like an ocean? Read on to learn more about these dangers so you can protect yourself and your loved ones this summer.
You may have heard about the recent drowning at one of our local beaches. The accident came on the heels of a warning that was issued on July 7 regarding dangerous swimming conditions in Lake Erie.
When warnings or hazardous conditions are reported by the National Weather Service it is extremely important that you take them seriously. By keeping yourself informed while you are at the beach, or on the water, you can help you avoid a potentially deadly situation.
- Download a local or national weather app, and allow notifications for weather alerts in your area.
- Check your local news before heading out to get an idea of the day’s forecast
- Look out for flags. Some local beaches will display different colored flags to indicate the lake’s condition. A red flag flying means the water’s conditions are extremely dangerous, and swimming is not advised. Two red flags mean the water is closed to swimming. Click here to learn about their meanings.
- Finally, use common sense. If you are out on the water, or at the beach, and the weather begins to take a turn for the worst (strong winds, rain, and thunder/lightning, etc.) that is your cue to get out of the water and get back to shore.
A strong rip current can easily lead to a swimmer drowning by causing them to panic and become exhausted. So what exactly is a rip current? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that are prevalent along the East, Gulf, and West coasts of the U.S., as well as along the shores of the Great Lakes. Moving at speeds of up to eight feet per second, rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer.
If you get stuck in a rip current, you should swim along the beach’s shoreline, until you are out of it. A rip current won’t pull you under – it just carries you away from the shore. So you can always just float until you exit the current. Most importantly, try to stay calm and aware of your surroundings.
Below is a great video from Ocean Today that simplifies what a rip current is. Take a look to learn more, and don't forget to share it with your family and friends too!
Most of the time, you can’t tell if the lake is safe to swim in or not. Harmful bacteria and algae are mostly invisible to the naked eye. Just like checking the weather before you head out, you should also see what the water quality is at your local beach. One good resource which provides regular water quality updates is through BeachGuard. You can access their daily advisories through the Ohio Department of Health website. Additionally, the Erie County Health Department has a similar site with a local focus on water quality. If high levels of E. Coli are reported, it is strongly advised that you don’t swim.
Have Fun – But Play it Safe
There are lots of ways to enjoy beautiful Lake Erie, and we hope that you do this summer. Just always stay aware of your surroundings, and up-to-date on what Mother Nature might have in store.