Officials urge caution when swimming

MARQUETTE – Though summer officially started about two weeks ago, cooler than average temperatures have meant a slow start to the local swimming season.

Still, in anticipation of the Fourth of July holiday, city officials are warning citizens to remain cautious when swimming in Lake Superior.

Marquette Fire Chief Tom Belt said there hasn’t been much swimming yet this season, but said city staff are prepared for an increase as the summer moves on.

In the city, Belt’s department is in charge of lifeguards and other waterfront safety features.

In recent years, the city has been rolling out a waterfront safety plan that involved the establishment of additional lifeguard stations and the installation of a beach flag warning system.

“The plan that we derived from the Waterfront Safety Task Force is in full effect,” Belt said.

As in previous years, green flags will denote fairly safe conditions, yellow will denote a moderate hazard and red will signal a dangerous and closed beach.

The current status of the flags on the city’s five beaches can be found online at

Belt said that swimmers should always use caution, regardless of warning flags.

“The coastline of Marquette, especially the dangerous areas … any time wave action gets over 2 to 3 feet, you can expect channel currents or in the case of Middle Bay, a rip current,” he said.

In addition to staffing the beaches with lifeguards each day, the city utilizes a jet ski to warn swimmers from trying to swim out to Picnic Rocks.

Last year, according to Belt, there were 66 interdictions at Picnic Rocks; there has been one this season.

And even though a record low was set overnight Monday, summer is here. Justin Titus, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Negaunee Township, said temperatures should continue climbing this week, topping off in the mid-80s this weekend.

“We’re definitely in a summer pattern where we’ll be seeing the warmer temperatures,” he said.

This spring, however, has been much colder than normal. The average temperature in the months of May and June was 2.3 degrees below normal, while the average for April was 5.5 degrees below normal.

In May of 2012, the average temperature was 4.2 degrees above normal and in April of last year, it was 5.5 degrees above normal.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.