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The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system on the Earth's surface, home to a fragile fishery, and delicate shoreline beaches and dunes. They are also central to northern Michigan tourism, economies and our way of life.

Lake Michigan drownings reach record high in 2020

There have been 57 drownings in Lake Michigan in 2020, which is the most on record according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
Dan Wanschura
/
Interlochen Public Radio
There have been 57 drownings in Lake Michigan in 2020, which is the most on record according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

Fifty-seven people have drowned in Lake Michigan this year, making it the deadliest on record.

Dave Benjamin is the executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, which has been tracking those deaths since 2010.

He says the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in those numbers as many people went to the beach to get outside this year.

“Water safety is not common sense,” he says. “When everyone wants to go out to the beach and the beaches don’t have lifeguards, and they don’t have the updated signage on beaches, it creates a recipe for fatalities unfortunately.”

Benjamin also says many beaches in Michigan don’t have lifeguards, and need better safety equipment and updated warning signs for beachgoers.

“Because no one's family fun vacation day at the beach should turn into a tragedy that they’re going to be haunted by the rest of their lives,” he says.

According to GLSP, Lake Michigan normally accounts for about half of all Great Lakes drownings each year. So far in 2020, there have been 110 drownings which is just seven shy of the record set in 2018.