High winds, waves at Chicago's lakefront; Swimmers warned of dangerous rip currents

September 2, 2013 (CHICAGO)

"Dangerous pounding waves and life-threatening rip currents are expected at the beaches. People visiting the beaches should stay out of the water" through early Tuesday morning, according to a beach hazards statement released by The National Weather Service (NWS). The NWS warns high waves and strong rip currents could turn deadly.

Rip currents are powerful channels of water that flow away from the shore. They occur most often at low spots such as near break walls, sandbars, and spits, according to the NWS, and some are powerful enough to sweep swimmers away from shore and into deeper water.

Chicago's beaches remain open, but there is a swim advisory. Despite the warning, Anton Andreev took a quick swim at North Avenue Beach in Chicago Monday morning.

"The current there was strong and the wind was strong towards the beach. If it was the other way, I would be in trouble," Andreev said.

The NWS predicts winds of up to 25 miles per hour and waves of up to 7 feet.

"There [are] points [where] you can watch the water's breaking higher than me. I mean the waves are splashing up way higher than me, so it's dangerous definitely," Ron Anson, cyclist, said.

Rip currents can pull people away from shore very quickly and are unpredictable in these conditions. Runner Christine Lee says she found herself in a rip current recently on a trip to San Diego.

"You can just feel like the water sucking you down. It's just really quick and really fast you know it's like a split second," Lee said.

The rip current warnings come on Labor Day, the last official day for Chicago's Lake Michigan swimming season. Rob Hughes and his family had planned to go out on their boat. But The Props is staying put.

"We're going to stay in the harbor," Hughes said.

Petrice Griffin is still going out.

"My boat can handle it," Griffin said. "I won't take it too far. I'll be safe."

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