Chicago Weather: NWS issues Beach Hazard statement along Lake Michigan amid dangerous waves

ByDiane Pathieu, Ravi Baichwal, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team via WLS logo
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
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The National Weather Service has issued a Beach Hazard Statement for Wednesday afternoon for Lake Michigan beaches in the Chicago area.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Beach Hazard Statement is in effect for Lake Michigan beaches in the Chicago area, the National Weather Service said.

The hazard will be in effect from 3 p.m. Wednesday until 4 a.m. Thursday at Lake, northern Cook and central Cook counties in Illinois and Lake and Porter counties in Indiana.

The NWS warned of life-threatening swimming conditions, especially for inexperienced swimmers.

"[The waves] are definitely causing rip currents and wild currents that are causing swimmers to get swept out two deeper portions of the lake that they are not familiar with," said Jason Lach, seputy district chief in charge of Marine Dive Operations for the Chicago Fire Department.

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Lach and his team were out here early in the day when the water was like glass. In just a few hours, it has become dangerously choppy.

"When you are looking out of the water, you can see how some of the water is forming A's as they are coming in. When the water is coming in to shore, the water is circulating into a 'V' pattern, meaning that is the direction of the rip current," Lach said. "It is a telltale sign."

Beach-goers are urged to stay out of the water and not to venture out onto piers, jetties, break walls or other shoreline structures.

"You should make sure that you know the weather conditions, know the wind conditions, and when are the winds expected to change," Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Project said.

"Blue skies and plenty of sun make it a no-brainer decision to enjoy the lakefront. Please be mindful though of the high winds and waves. If you see something, say something. Let's look out for each other," Chicago fire officials posted on Twitter.

Another reminder, the winds and waves don't have to be very strong for things to go awry.

Woodridge man dies after being pulled from Lake Michigan near Indiana dunes beach

Just Tuesday in Gary, Indiana, two kids went under at Marquette Beach. A 14-year-old was rescued by bystanders, but they were not able to reach her 9-year-old sister. She was ultimately saved by first responders, but it was too late- she died at a local hospital.

"There's a ripple effect for every drowning, there's a ripple effect for the family and friends, there's a ripple effect for everybody who is at the beach who witnesses what happens," Benjamin said. "It's person trauma that people experience. We don't want your family fun day at the beach to be a water location you'll ever go to again."

"Now I am very aware now that more situations are happening," said Mercedes Harris. "I do think that people need to start opening their eyes at night and not being careless the water. Can be dangerous if you are not paying attention."

With a lifeguard shortage across the country, now more than ever, staying aware and hyper-vigilant while near or in a body of water, can be life or death.

"Unfortunately, we are now at 1,100 Great Lakes drownings since 2010, and we have about nine more incidents that were last listed in critical condition or unknown condition these numbers are going to continually go up as the day goes on, as the week goes on," Benjamin said.