2020 sees a record number of drownings in Lake Michigan

Summer in Chicago at Lake Michigan

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A group that tracks drownings in Lake Michigan said this year has set a record.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project has tracked 53 drownings so far this year – topping the previous high of 49 set in 2012.

Co-founder Dave Benjamin said COVID closures forced swimmers to more remote beaches and a lack of lifeguards have contributed to the problem.

"When you are reducing the beach access and reducing the number of lifeguards, more people are still going to go to the beach, because it is summertime. They are going to beaches that may be more remote. They could be farther away from help, and no lifeguards," he said.

And the problem isn’t going away now that summer’s over.

"Drownings happen year round in the Great Lakes. When September comes, we can still have water temperatures that's the high 70s, mid-70s, we could still have 80- and 90-degree air temperature days and people are still going to go to the beach," he said.

The Rescue Project tracked 10 of last year’s 48 drownings in Lake Michigan coming after Labor Day.

Benjamin said there have been 94 drownings this year in all the Great Lakes and renewed his call for more water safety training.