Weather change expected to improve conditions along Lake Michigan shoreline

2013-07-29T16:07:00Z 2013-07-29T23:50:17Z Weather change expected to improve conditions along Lake Michigan shorelineStan Maddux Times Correspondent
July 29, 2013 4:07 pm  • 

Conditions on Lake Michigan were much improved Monday but rip current warnings remained in effect for much of the day following the weekend drownings of a man and boy near Michigan City and New Buffalo.

Lonnie Fisher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Syracuse, Ind., said a beach hazards statement warning about the high risk for rip currents was first posted Friday afternoon.

It was due to expire Monday afternoon with the forecast calling for winds to die down and switch out of the northeast and southeast by Tuesday.

"That should pretty much bring any concerns to an end," said Fisher.

Red flags warning swimmers not to enter the water were still posted Monday morning at beaches like the one in Michigan City.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, waves measuring four to five feet Saturday and Sunday along the entire southern tip were down to just a foot or two Monday morning as winds out of the northwest had already decreased to five to 10 miles per hour.

Rip currents from waves churned by strong northerly winds were apparently to blame for both drownings Saturday.

In Beverly Shores, Gonzola Silva, 37, of Lafayette was more than 150 feet off shore when onlookers noticed him struggling in the water, said Ken Mehne, a public information officer with the law enforcement division of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore National Park Service.

Rescuers had to pull out of the water two male family members of the victim who also began struggling in the dangerous surf trying to reach Silva.

"They needed to be rescued as well," said Mehne.

Silva, who was soon found in shallow water just west of where he was last seen, died later that evening.

"He went without oxygen for too long," said LaPorte County Chief Deputy Coroner Mark Huffman.

Earlier that afternoon, Matthew Kocher, 15, from Tinley Park, Ill., was pulled out of the water by New Buffalo lifeguards.

He died several hours later after flown to a Chicago hospital.

Fisher said the risk for rip currents are highest when winds are blowing across the lake out of the west and northwest.

There is some degree of risk for rip currents when waves reach two to four feet but the risk becomes even greater with 3 to 5 foot waves, he said.

He said the threatening conditions started Friday when a cold front passed through bringing with it the strong northerly winds and much cooler temperatures.

"There's been a lot of wave action across the lake," said Fisher.

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