DNR urges Great Lakes visitors to check flag warnings
MID-MICHIGAN (WNEM) – The Michigan DNR is implementing the use of double red flags to warn people visiting the Great Lakes to stay out of the water.
The DNR said this is one tool it is using to increase safety at the beaches it manages.
“We had incidents where we were having multiple water rescues in a day, and it was difficult for our staff and the responding agencies to go in and continue to rescue people while others continued to swim,” said Michigan DNR spokesperson Pat Whalen.
Whalen said a current or ongoing water rescue, high waves, E. coli, or dangerous items in the water can all constitute double red flag warnings.
Visitors to state parks on Michigan’s shoreline will need to look out for these four flags:
- Double red flag: Water access is closed. Do not enter the water due to dangerous conditions.
- Single red flag: High hazard, high surf and/or strong currents. It’s recommended that you stay on the beach.
- Yellow flag: Medium hazard, moderate surf and/or currents. Watch for dangerous currents and high waves.
- Green flag: Low hazard, calm conditions. Enter the water, but exercise caution.
“That just reduces the amount of times that our staff and the responding first responders have to go in and put their lives at risk to save others,” Whalen said.
Whalen spoke about how the DNR plans to enforce the double red flag warnings.
“Staff will go out and warn those in the water they need to exit the water,” Whalen said. “We’ve got signage that’s been dispersed throughout the parks that have these double red flags now that we’ve put up. And then we again, educate the public. There is the opportunity if people refuse to exit the water, our park officers can cite. We want that to be our last option.”
Whalen said a citation will cost $500. He’s urging everyone using coastal state parks to pay attention to the flags.
“It’ll change throughout the day, if the weather changes, if lake conditions change, the flag will also change,” he explained.
According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there have been 1,170 Great Lakes drownings since 2010, with 108 of those drownings occurring in 2022 alone.
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