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Weather blog: Beach and Water Safety - Sites to visit before hitting the water

Lake Michigan Milwaukee
Posted at 11:25 AM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 12:25:26-04

Summer weather is here!

The return of heat and humidity will have many of us headed for the lake, the pool, or the beach. But there are a few things to think about BEFORE suiting up to hit the water.

This week is Beach Hazards and Water Safety Awareness Week. Now is a great time to review some best practices for safely enjoying Wisconsin's beautiful local waters.

Below are some helpful links that you can visit time and time again to check local conditions.

Yes, we like to use sayings that rhyme in the weather office. 'Know before you go' encourages you to check the water conditions before arriving at the water. So, what exactly do you need to know?

  • What is the swim risk? Is it going to be a day with large waves or a risk of rip currents? Or will the water be calm and peaceful?
  • Cold water warning
    • Water heats much more slowly than air. The Great Lakes take a while to warm up due to the large amount of water that must be heated. Therefore, they remain cool through the first part of summer. Here's a look at the average temperature of Lake Michigan during the spring and summer.

    • Cold water can make it challenging to swim or even float. Hypothermia can occur in less than an hour when swimming in water temperatures in the 40s and low 50s.
    • Check out the Great Lakes water temperatures here, measured by buoys in the water. The Atwater Park buoy (third down in the list) is a good one to look at if visiting the lake near Milwaukee:
  • Weather conditions
    • Warm, summer days can feature lots of sun... and can also bring summer storms. Be sure to check in with the TMJ4 Storm Team to find out what the weather will be like. If there is a possibility for thunderstorms, have a way to monitor the weather from the beach. Download the TMJ4 StormShield App to have weather alerts sent right to your phone. Or use your favorite radar app to check in occasionally to see if storms are developing near your location. If storms do pop up, have an action plan, either know where to take shelter, or plan to pack up and head out for the day. Remember the saying, "When Thunder Roars, Head Indoors!" If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.Lightning can strike many miles outside of a thunderstorm. Always wait 30 minutes after a storm has passed to resume outdoor activities.

A note about high waves - Wave and water related danger increases significantly when waves are 3 feet or larger. On days where Lake Michigan waves are big, consider staying out of the water. If you feel like you must go in, wear a lifejacket. In addition, high lake levels combined with large waves can cause water to crash over breakwalls and piers, use extreme caution if walking out on these during a day with highs waves.

We want everyone to enjoy the warmth and beauty of summer in Wisconsin, and safely enjoy the local waters. Remember to check weather and water conditions before heading out! If you have a forecast related question, or an idea for a weather blog you'd like Storm Team 4 to explore, email us at

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