MUSKEGON, Mich. — The waters of Lake Michigan can be tricky and deadly.
A calm day on the surface isn’t always indicative of safety. But a new warning system already being used at Pere Marquette beach is making it as easy as red, yellow, green.
The new stoplight system is exactly what you’re thinking. It looks, and acts, exactly like a stoplight you’d see out on the roads. Red means dangerous conditions, yellow is moderate, and green means low risk.
“It’s familiar, it’s simple and it’s effective,” said Leo Evans, Muskegon’s director of public works. “The ultimate hope is to save lives.”
Evans says the system, which includes the singular stoplight on the Pere Marquette bathhouse and two warning lights along the beach that light up when conditions are dangerous, pulls data in real time from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association for updates. They can override the system, but otherwise the lights are updated solely by the NOAA reports.
“As long as it works we don’t have to do a thing,” said Evans.
The total cost to install the system, made by Swim Smart Technologies, was $13,000, but Evans says the cost is far worth it compared to the antiquated flag system that used to alert people to conditions.
“We saw a lot of downsides with the flag system,” he said. “The cost of [the system] was very reasonable too compared to putting up flag poles and staffing somebody to do that.”
Evans says the systems will operate 24 hours a day and could be something you will soon see at other beaches.
With 18 drownings already this year in the Great Lakes, Evans says it’s only a warning—not a surefire way to prevent tragedy in the water.
“There’s no such thing as a safe day to swim,” he said. “It comes down to people knowing their own limitations, knowing how to swim, and being prepared for the situations.”
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