ALPENA — As weekend temperatures jump to summery highs, Northeast Michigan beaches present a tempting way for residents to cool off and enjoy long-awaited sunshine.
The beckoning water of Lake Huron should be entered with caution, however, according to the National Weather Service.
Despite hot sunshine — forecasted to reach the mid-80s on Saturday and stay pleasantly warm throughout the week — the Great Lakes haven’t had a chance to warm up, and water temperatures are only around 40 degrees, according to meteorologist Tim Locker of the National Weather Service station in Gaylord.
Thunder Bay may be a few degrees warmer, Locker said, but swimmers should consider wetsuits and limit their time in the water.
Water temperatures below 70 degrees make breath control difficult. For most people, the cold shock of 50- to 60-degree water temperatures produce gasping, hyperventilation, and life-threatening loss of breath control, according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety.
Sudden and uncontrollable gasps, combined with changes in heart rate and blood pressure caused by cold shock, increase the risk of drowning, even for competent swimmers in calm waters, according to the National Weather Service website.
Those venturing onto Lake Huron in kayaks or other boats — including experienced boaters — should wear life jackets when water temperatures are still low, Locker advised.
Lake Michigan-Huron water levels are two feet below last year’s level for May but are still more than a foot above the long-term average. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers forecasts the lake will continue to rise slightly until July before gradually receding.