Dangerous rip currents affecting swimmers this summer

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Dear Tom,

There have been a lot of warnings of dangerous rip currents affecting swimmers this summer. Details?

Thanks,
Margaret Robertson
Chicago

Dear Margaret,

Rip currents develop when large wind-driven waves break over shallow sandbars near the beaches. The incoming waves push the water over the sandbar, but the water flowing back into the lake has difficulty passing over the sandbar. Eventually the water “rips” an opening in the sandbar and rushes back to the open lake like a swift-moving underwater river. A person standing in this current can easily lose their balance and be carried out to deep water. The best way to escape is to swim or float parallel to the shore until you are out danger then head back to the beach. Far southern Lake Michigan experiences strong rip currents several times each beach season when powerful north winds send large waves crashing onshore.

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