‘Major concern’: USCG warns against holiday swimming in Lake MI


HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Temperatures are on the rise heading into Memorial Day weekend, and that means Lake Michigan — and inland lakes in West Michigan — will likely be packed with beachgoers.

But before you jump in, the U.S. Coast Guard is urging caution. The water is still dangerously cold.

>>Memorial Day weekend coverage: Lake Michigan beach and boating conditions | Tips and risks on the water | Holiday traffic detours

24 Hour News 8 sent a crew to the beach at Holland State Park on Friday to test the water temperature in Lake Michigan. Our thermometer reached just 52 degrees.

“That’s a major concern for us, because hypothermia can set in extremely fast,” Joshua Sanders with the U.S. Coast Guard station in Holland told 24 Hour News 8.

Red flags lined the beach Friday, warning people against swimming in Lake Michigan because of the cold water and the thick fog. Sanders said it’s not warm enough to swim safely right now.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said.

“You get in that water, you can probably last about 10 minutes — that’s it,” Terry Boersen, a marine deputy with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, told 24 Hour News 8 Friday.

Boersen took our crew in a boat out on Lake Michigan to check the conditions. Thick fog surrounded the shoreline Friday afternoon. That forms when warm air pushes over a cool surface — a cold-water warning from Mother Nature herself.

“If you’re out in board shorts and a tank top and it’s 70 degrees out — and you go in that water and it’s 53 degrees — your survival time is not that long,” Sanders said. “In about 10 minutes, your extremities and your muscles are going to start to fail, because the water is so cold — it’s going to grip you.”

And it’s not just Lake Michigan. Lake Macatawa, an inland lake near the Holland State Park, reached only about 60 degrees Friday.

“It’s not going to take you long to pull your core temperature down in 60 degree water. We’re talking maybe a little over an hour if you have a life jacket on,” Sanders said.

If you insist on swimming, or plan on jetskiing or kayaking over the holiday weekend, Sanders, recommends wearing a wet suit or dry suit — and keep the time under the water’s surface to a minimum.

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