PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Great Lakes drownings are down from last year but there were several reported outside of West Michigan over the Labor Day holiday.
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project said there were nine drownings over the weekend. Six were in Lake Michigan, according to Bob Pratt the organization’s director of education.
“Overall, the numbers are down. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, we’re moving into a dangerous time on the Great Lakes as fall arrives,” Pratt said. “The numbers are better than they have been for the past four or five years, but they are certainly not record-low numbers and we’re hopeful that we won’t have any more drownings but unfortunately the reality is we probably will.”
The most recent numbers from the organization show there were 72 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year and 37 were in Lake Michigan.
Last year there were 108 Great Lakes drownings, with 45 of those occurring in Lake Michigan.
The project said several factors could be contributing to the drop including the number of people going to the beach with cooler weather to start the season.
“When it’s warm, windy and wavy on the weekend we tend to see more incidents. When it’s cool, cloudy and calm we tend to see less incidents,” Pratt said.
The Park Township Fire Department has not responded to a drowning this year in Lake Michigan but has seen some close calls, according to Chief Scott Gamby.
“We’ve been very fortunate. Our department here has been called out 10 times as of today, out on different water rescues,” Gamby said.
While lakeshore communities have made strides — like making lifejackets available on beaches and adding lifesaving equipment — the fire chief says they are always looking at ways to improve safety.
“We’re continually working on education and getting equipment. Trying to make the community safer,” Gamby said.
Park Township is in the process of creating a new marine division and is working on training staff. It is also looking at getting cameras to help provide crucial information to first responders called to make a rescue.
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is reminding people to be careful, especially as we shift into fall when the waves get even larger.
You can visit the organization’s website for more information on how to stay safe in the water.