Rough seas and strong winds make Great Lakes storm watching dangerous

Large waves on Lake Michigan crash against the pier in St. Joseph, Mich., Oct. 9, 2015. The high waves, nearing 7 feet, and 20-knot winds prompted the rescue of a surfer after he was overcome. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Station St. Joseph.

Large waves on Lake Michigan crash against the pier in St. Joseph, Mich., Oct. 9, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Station St. Joseph.

MILWAUKEE — With gale and storm warnings in affect for most of Lake Michigan until Thursday night, Coast Guard search and rescue experts encourage those interested in watching the waves to exercise caution when observing the weather near the water.

While docks, breakwalls, piers and rocks are seemingly ideal places to take pictures or video of storms, members of Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan and its sub units on the lake have responded to numerous cases involving people swept off of a wall or pier by rough seas.

The winter storm season often brings waves in excess of 10 feet and winds more than 30 miles per hour.

Coast Guard search and rescue experts encourage safer alternatives for community members interested in observing the weather.

There are numerous cameras around Lake Michigan that offer online video feeds of the beaches and piers, and weather permitting, local lakefront parks or parking lots often offer safe vantage points.

Those willing to brave the weather are encouraged to stay a safe distance, approximately 25 feet, from the water, especially in areas near breaking waves.

“Wearing a life jacket or having a floatation device is always advised when near the water,” said Cmdr. Leanne Lusk, Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan’s chief of response. “It’s helpful to make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan on being back.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts high winds and heavy seas until Thursday evening.

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