MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – In an effort to raise awareness for changing conditions at beaches around the Great Lakes, visitors will see double red warning flags at specific state-designated beaches.

The change started in 2022 with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“We actively reevaluate our safety measures and public education efforts, especially when it comes to Great Lakes safety,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation chief. “Many people underestimate the power of the Great Lakes and don’t always understand how quickly even the most experienced swimmer can get into a life-threatening situation and swept away. That’s why the DNR is committed to making beach safety and public education a top priority.”

Date from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project recorded 108 drownings in 2022, bringing the total since 2010 to 1,170.

If you see double red flags, you can’t go in the water from the beach. The beaches themselves are still accessible.

“We began introducing double red flags at some state-designated swim beaches in 2022,” said Pat Whalen, district supervisor for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “This year, all equipment is in place, and the new flag warning system has been rolled out to all state-designated swim beaches along the Great Lakes in nearly 30 state parks. We urge all Great Lakes beach visitors – whether you’re new to these beaches or have been coming for years – to learn what the flags mean and follow this guidance at all times.”

The updated system now includes:

  • Double red flag = water access closed**. Do not enter the water; dangerous conditions.
  • Red flag = high hazard. High surf and/or strong currents. It’s recommended that you stay on the beach.
  • Yellow flag = medium hazard. Moderate surf and/or currents. Watch for dangerous currents and high waves.
  • Green flag = low hazard. Calm conditions. Enter the water, but exercise caution.

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