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Post-Summer Polar Vortex, Return to the Beach and Check a Website for Conditions

July 18, 2014

With the so-called summer polar vortex and its July temperatures in the 50s and 60s now history, Lake Michigan sun, sand and surf are going to seem all that much sweeter as beachgoers return to the lakefront. A handy website lets those visitors know the beaches’ real-time weather and water conditions, including the presence of potentially deadly rip currents.

The site is milwcountybeaches.org. It collects and shares a wide range of beach information such as rip current forecasts, water quality, harmful algal blooms, wave heights, water temperature and weather data for all nine county beaches. A Bradford Beach live-cam also gives a birds-eye and real-time view of the beach action.

“Lake Michigan offers some wonderful recreational opportunities and we want people to enjoy the lake and be safe. With a computer or any mobile device, people can quickly and easily check milwcountybeaches.org for real-time beach conditions,” said Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Gene Clark.

Clark is a coastal engineer and often works to alert people to the dangers of rip currents. Because of its long stretch of water that northerly winds can run across, causing larger waves at the southern end, Lake Michigan is particularly prone to rip currents. In fact, Lake Michigan outpaces the other Great Lakes in the formation of rip currents.

If caught in a rip current, a swimmer should avoid panicking. Rip currents are generally narrow and fast moving so treading water, remaining calm and just going with the flow is a quick way to get out of danger. Rip currents do not pull swimmers under, and dissipate quickly once they reach just outside the wave breaker line. Once outside the breaking waves, a swimmer can then swim back to shore.

The Milwaukee county beaches website is part of a project funded by the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and is a partnership between the Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture and Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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