The National Weather Service has issued a Beach Hazards Statement for the Lake Michigan shore from Kenosha to Ozaukee County through Friday.
Swimming will be very dangerous today with waves 3 to 6 feet along with rip currents. It is advised that even strong swimmers stay out of the water and everyone should keep a safe distance.
So why the dangerous lake? The winds sure don't seem to be terribly strong?
Well, in this case, it's not necessarily the strength of the wind but the direction.
With a persistent NNE wind, large waves and strong current build as the wind fetches the longest part of the lake from the Straits of Mackinac to Chicago.
This current rides right along our shore in SE Wisconsin. It's the same wind direction and fetch of lake that produces lake effect snow when conditions are right in winter.
So, when will lake conditions improve?
Tonight and this weekend as the winds first shift east then eventually west overnight and into tomorrow.
The lake should be much safer just in time for the holiday weekend's big warm-up!
Families stress water safety
Rodriguez and his family started the holiday weekend at Grant Park Beach on Friday.
"Especially with three small children safety is paramount to us," said Bernabe Rodriguez.
He had not heard about the NWS warning, but said just looking at Lake Michigan he knew it was safer to stay on the shore.
"You go down to the water and looks real choppy, looks real heavy. So, it wouldn't be safe for the children," Rodriguez said.
"We're seeing rip currents. We're seeing 4 to 7-foot waves, and that's just a situation that could very easily turn deadly," said Lt. Phillip Gurtler, public affairs officer with the U.S. Coast Guard.
The U.S. Coast Guard, now in its busiest season, is beefing up staff for the weekend. Lt. Gurtler said it is common during the summer weekends. The guard reported an uptick in cases across Lake Michigan compared to last year.
14-year-old Lily Limbert died on Tuesday after being pulled from Lake Michigan in Racine over a week ago.
In a statement her family said:
"Lily will be remembered as the amazing, creative, and passionate free spirit she was. She saw beauty in everything and touched the lives of everyone she met."
"We would give anything to have another day with our Lily..."
The family also encouraged raising awareness about water safety and the real dangers that can change lives forever.
With summer in full swing, the Coast Guard offered this message.
"Be prepared. Know the area that you're going to. If there is a warning make sure you know what those warnings are if there's signs follow the signs they're posted there for a reason. Enjoy yourself responsibly, and the last one is kind of the easiest is wear a life jacket," Lt. Gurtler said.
Lake Michigan waters should improve after Friday night, but it is a good habit to check for any warnings from the national weather service or our Storm Team 4 anytime you head out there.
Lily's family has a GoFundMe account to help pay for hospital bills and her funeral. They said anything raised beyond the goal will be donated to Children's Wisconsin.
The full statement from Lily Limbert's family is below.
"Lily will be remembered as the amazing, creative, and passionate free spirit she was. She saw beauty in everything and touched the lives of everyone she met. Our family wants to express our deepest gratitude for the community support we have received during this extremely difficult time and want to thank everyone involved in Lily's rescue, the Racine Sheriff's Department, Children's Wisconsin, and everyone who has been praying and supporting us through this. We also know that the Racine County Dive Team and nonprofits like the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project have been working hard to spread more awareness about the dangers of rip tides, water safety, and what to do if you are ever at risk of drowning. We would love for this education and awareness to become more widespread...just like we are all taught very young to Stop, Drop, and Roll in a fire, we should also be taught to Flip, Float, and Follow if you are ever in danger of drowning. We encourage everyone to advocate for this education to be added to swimming school curriculums, daycare/elementary school programming, community education, etc, and in the mean time seek out/share this information with your friends and loved ones. We would give anything to have another day with our Lily and want to do anything we can to prevent this from happening to anyone else."