MILWAUKEE — The National Weather Service issued an alert in expectation of dangerous swimming conditions along Lake Michigan beaches Thursday and Friday.
The NWS says it expects life-threatening waves of three to six feet and dangerous currents at beaches in Ozaukee, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties from Thursday afternoon through Friday evening.
"If the water was two to four feet on June 19, when two young lives were lost, you really have to respect three to six-foot waves, if that’s what they’re calling for," said Racine County Sheriff's Sgt. Michael Luell.
On June 19, crews in Racine pulled two young people from Lake Michigan. Crews first responded to 10-year-old Eisha Nahomy Figuereo Colon at Zoo Beach, and minutes later they discovered 17-year-old Yaadwinder Singh at North Beach.
"Yaadwinder himself, in just a few minutes, was found 200 yards offshore," Sgt. Luell said. "That is the power of the current pulling these individuals away from safety."
Two days later, crews pulled a 14-year-old girl from the same area at North Beach. Officials confirmed she died Tuesday after at least a week at Children's Hospital.
North Beach is one of seven beaches the NWS lists as most at risk for dangerous conditions. Others include McKinley Beach in Milwaukee, which remains closed because of dangerous conditions.
The NWS also advises staying away from piers and break walls.
"That formation of the beach and that right angle with the pier actually allows the current to kind of bounce off each other and create almost a criss-cross current," Sgt. Luell said.
If you do see someone in trouble in the water, alert a lifeguard and call 911.
If you are stuck in a current, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project shared a video that says swimmers should try to flip over and float. If you can, call for help and try to swim parallel to the beach to get away from the current, and then back to shore.
"The idea is to stay calm, perhaps float and call for help. Hopefully you're in an area that has lifeguards, and if you do try to fight it, certainly don’t try to swim back to shore because you're swimming against a treadmill of water," Sgt. Luell said.
According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there have been 33 drownings in the Great Lakes in 2021, and 16 of those happened in Lake Michigan.