WSW: Understanding and Preventing Drownings In The Great Lakes

Aug 29, 2016

Pier on Lake Michigan at South Haven
Credit WMUK

Reporter Elizabeth Miller says that seeing beaches in Ohio without lifeguards made her think about the issue of drowning on the Great Lakes. 


Miller, a reporter at Ideastream in Cleveland, reported and produced a four-part series for the public radio collaborative Great Lakes Today. We present the series, and talk with Miller for WestSouthwest.

Miller says warmer summers are usually more dangerous. They create more dangerous currents, plus more inexperienced swimmers in the lakes.

In part one of the series, Miller introduces us to Melissa Zirkle whose son drowned in Lake Erie in 2013. Now Zirkle works to educate people about dangers such as structural currents that can develop along piers.

In the second story, Miller explains how deadly currents develop in the Great Lakes. Even a strong swimmer can be in danger if they don’t know how to swim in rip currents or an undertow.

For part three, Miller visited Silver Beach in Saint Joseph. She says that data shows that Berrien County is one of the most dangerous places in the Great Lakes. Silver Beach is rare in that there are life guards stationed there. But she says many of the drownings occur near the pier, which presents its own dangers.

In the final segment of the four-part series, Miller tells us about efforts to prevent drownings. Some advocates want lifeguards throughout the Great Lakes. That doesn’t seem likely. Others are focusing on education.