Swimming can offer relief but be very cautious

Summer has finally arrived and the warm weather followed closely, putting residents and visitors to the area fully into the outdoor recreation mode.

Evidence of this can be seen by the large number of people flocking to local beaches, including the main beach along Lake Superior in Marquette.

There’s no doubt the cool water of Superior offers soothing relief when the air temperature rises into the 80s and above, but swimmers must be reminded of how dangerous those waters can also be.

That same stretch of beach in Marquette where crowds gather is where a strong rip current races through.

The current and shifting sands have made the area between the shore at Shiras Park and Picnic Rocks particularly troublesome for swimmers.

Since the early 1960s, 14 people have drowned in that area, including two during the summer of 2010.

In an effort to make the area safer for swimmers, the National Weather Service is in the final year of a three-year current monitoring project.

The goal of the effort is to develop a rip current warning system that will inform swimmers of conditions in a timely manner.

In addition, the city of Marquette has a flagging system in place that warns swimmers of dangerous water conditions.

These are certainly worthwhile efforts and have the potential of reducing swimming accidents, but swimmers also need to use some common sense when venturing out in the water.

Some things not to do are obvious, such as venturing out in rough water, when not only rip currents but undertows from breaking waves can pull a swimmer under.

Being knowledgeable about the location you plan to swim in is a good idea, too, especially if venturing to an area that doesn’t have lifeguards on duty.

The old buddy system is always good to practice, as well, which simply involves not swimming alone.

People should also learn how to swim at a young age, which not only makes hitting the water much safer but also more enjoyable while you’re cooling off.

In addition, everyone who visits the beach should keep an eye out for anyone who might appear to be getting in trouble in the water – you might just help save a life.