It was a deadly weekend on the Great Lakes. Seven people drowned, including three in Lake Michigan.
Kevin Schlake, 40, of Cincinnati, died Sunday after swimming at Peterson Beach, toward the southern end of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Schlake was caught in a rip current. The family says he was trying to rescue a 12-year-old nephew. Schlake’s brother-in-law was able to make it to shore after a struggle in strong surf.
Also this weekend, a Chicago doctor drowned at St. Joseph beach while trying to rescue two children.
The City of Ludington closed its beach Sunday due to strong waves. A couple of people had to be helped from the surf at Ludington State Park.
Dave Benjamin tracks conditions for Great Lakes Surf Rescue. He calls it the most deadly weekend of the summer.
“If you’re not a good swimmer, if you’re not a strong swimmer, really shouldn’t be in the water when the waves are in blown out condition, when the winds are on-shore,” he cautions.
Though drownings have been up this summer, so far there haven’t been many days with strong onshore winds that produce dangerous currents. But Benjamin says that could be about to change.
“August first is usually the start of rip current season on the Great Lakes because by August first the water temperatures are in the 80s and the prevailing winds start to shift to north to northwest,” he says.
Strong winds over warmer water hitting the shore at an angle produce both strong currents running along the shore and rip currents that pull swimmers away from the shore.