21 Jun July 1 the Beginning of Rip Current Season
Summer is a great time of year at the beach in Grand Haven. During June the lake water warms from the mid 50’s to near 70 degrees by the start of July. Swimmers go to the beach and enjoy the refreshing water and escape the summer heat. It’s not too unusual to have a windy day with waves and currents all along the waterfront including the State Park beach south of the Grand Haven pier.
Most everyone has heard about rip currents and the dangers associated with being caught in the grip of this summertime threat. Much has been taught about escaping such currents and what to do to avoid getting into trouble while in the water. Over the past 35 years, we have had many close calls and a few tragic fatalities in Grand Haven from rip current events. Most of these victims were affected by three factors that were common in most every case. First the water was relatively warm (68-78 degrees), second the wind was from the southwest quadrant, and the swimmers were relatively close to the south pier.
Last year, as a result of a Water Safety Symposium in Grand Haven, it was decided to move the swimming buoys at the State Park approximately 50 feet further away from the south pier. It may have been a coincidence or the lack of rip current events, but there were no rip current fatalities or close calls in this area for the first time in many years. There were at least two boating fatalities in the Grand Haven area that were not rip current related.
Many thanks to the water safety officials in Grand Haven for their efforts to keep the public safe, and their willingness to try new methods to prevent unfortunate events such as a rip current drowning. As our lake water moves above 70 degrees in July and the winds begin to blow, it will only be a matter of time before the danger is there.