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New lights at Pere Marquette Beach give swimmers lake conditions in real-time

Swimmers at Pere Marquette Beach can now get lake warnings in real-time thanks to traffic signal-style lights on the north and south ends of the large city beach.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — A Beach Hazards Statement issued by the National Weather Service for Muskegon County remains in effect until 2 a.m. Tuesday.

The lake's condition includes high wave action, strong currents and dangerous swimming conditions. Piers will continue to be heavily swamped by waves.

This summer, swimmers visiting Muskegon's Pere Marquette Beach can get real-time lake conditions thanks to new traffic signal-style lights placed on the beach bathhouse and kite shack near the water filtration plant.

Unlike the flag system the city once used, the new warning system updates automatically whenever conditions change.

"It mimics what the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration give us for beach conditions," said Muskegon Department of Public Works Director Leo Evans. "And it's in that simple format."

When the green light is lit, the lake is considered safe, and yellow advises swimmers to use caution and watch for waves and currents. When conditions in the lake become dangerous, red lights illuminate to inform swimmers to stay out of the water.

Additionally, the city has blinking red lights on top of the bathhouse and kite shack that activate to warn swimmers to stay out of the lake. Those lights can be seen from just about everywhere on the city's mile-long beach. 

"They're working well," said Evans. "We got our cellular connection up and working and been able to prove the system. It's been very reliable. We've had very limited outages or down time on it."

The new warning system cost the city around $13,000 and can be expanded if needed. For the summer of 2022, the city is considering adding two additional light stations at both of the beach entrances.

The lights are intended to help swimmers make better choices when it comes to going into the water. Evans says even on days when the light is green, it's still up to swimmers to know their own limitations. 

"Conditions are more favorable for swimming when it's green but still you have to know your limitations, how to swim and respect the lake because it can change quickly," said Evans. 

In 2021, there have been 30 drownings in the Great Lakes and 13 in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

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