Coastal Hazards and Safety

Whether you live on the Great Lakes coastline or are just visiting for the afternoon, it’s important to be aware of the potential hazards associated with the lakeshore. Some hazards, such as avian botulism or rip currents, affect people and animals near the water. Others, such as extreme storms and harmful algal blooms, can carry risks for people inland as well.

These hazards rarely occur independently. Climate change will increase the risk of extreme storms, warmer lake temperatures may fuel the growth of harmful algal blooms, and fluctuating lake levels will make it more difficult to navigate shallow-water harbors and docks. Likewise, the best ways to mitigate these hazards may not be straightforward. Preparing a coastal town for intense storms requires funding, community buy-in, changes to ordinances and zoning laws, and more. Lake temperatures are already rising, and even concerted global efforts to reduce emissions won’t completely halt the effects of climate change.

Thankfully, there are some common-sense steps everyone can take: wear a life-jacket while boating. Look into flood insurance for your at-risk property. Heed official warnings to stay away from beaches contaminated by algae blooms. And learn about the types of hazards you, your family, and your community may encounter by the lakes.