New Rip Current Technology Hitting Park Point

Cameras, Wave Detectors To Gather Data

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Duluth’s Park Point is about to become the first camera system on Lake Superior to detect deadly rip current, as FOX 21’s Dan Hanger reports.

Rip currents can be killers.

More than 100 people die from the currents on U.S. beaches every year, according to The United States Lifesaving Association. And 80 percent of rescues by lifeguards are caused by rip currents.

But now, the National Weather Service, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National Sea Grant Program are working together like never before to improve prediction methods and better determine the strength of rip currents.

“We know how to forecast when there’s going to be big waves – mostly –and that’s a lot of what’s driving it right now,” said Jesse Schomber, with the Minnesota Sea Grant Program.

In the coming weeks, two small cameras on a radio tower will go live with a birds eye view of Lake Superior to collect scientific data to help forecasters better detect rip currents.

“This is going to give us a really powerful tool to look at what it actually takes here to make a rip current. When should we really have the red flags flying? When should the yellow flag be flying,” said Schomber.

The new technology will also include a wave detector near the shoreline, which forecasters say will be much accurate than the buoys miles out.

 “They change as they come closer into shore and as they curve around and do all sorts of crazy things,” Schomber said.

The National Weather Service in Duluth will be a key player in examining the new data before issuing red flag warnings.

“This is just another set of data we can look at that is immediate and real time,” said Mike Stewart, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Duluth.

“They hope with this data they can design a model – right a model – that will model rip currents and then better forecast for rip currents,” said Stewart.

It’s a body of water that attracts thousands of lake lovers every summer but will always have a mind of its own.

“Things still aren’t infallible. And things can change really quickly on this lake. So, you always need to be aware, especially on this lake,” Schomber said.

Check out for updates on this program and the latest conditions for the beaches. 

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