Chicago Weather: Beach Hazard in effect along Lake Michigan

ByJessica D'Onofrio, Eric Horng, and Meghan Kluth via WLS logo
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
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Lake Michigan was beautiful but dangerous Monday, as large and strong waves left areas along the lakefront underwater.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Lake Michigan was beautiful but dangerous Monday, as large and strong waves left areas along the lakefront underwater.

The National Weather Service warned beach goers that the waves are life-threatening and the currents are too.

A Beach Hazard statement is in effect through 5 a.m. Tuesday for Cook County and for Lake and Porter counties in Indiana. The Beach Hazard is in effect for Lake County in Illinois until 11 p.m. Monday. A Lakeshore Flood Advisory is in effect until 5 a.m. Tuesday for Cook County as well as Porter and Lake counties in Indiana.

CFD warn of hazardous water conditions along Lake Michigan

The Beach Hazard means caution needs to be exercised if you are visiting a beach in Cook County and Northwest Indiana.

The normally-bustling Ohio Street Beach was underwater Monday. During the evening rush things got treacherous as giant waves battered the Oak Street curve, nearly toppling cyclists and pedestrians. A Divvy bike was almost swept into the lake.

"I've seen people riding bikes but you really shouldn't be," said Mike Buffa, who was walking along the lake. "The waves are coming up on the break wall pretty far."

"I would say it's wild. I would be careful. I saw people swimming in there. Be careful," said Spencer Collins, who was walking along the lake.

The hazardous conditions led to a water rescue in Lake Michigan south of Montrose Beach. A witness said two fisherman went into the water to help a third after a huge wave knocked him in. One was taken to a hospital, but police said there were no serious injuries.

"They were actually on shore on the hook itself. They were not in a vessel at all, they got swept away by the winds changing and the water coming up over the edge," said Chicago Fire Department's Deputy District Chief of Marine Dive Operations Jason Lach.

CFD provide update on Montrose Beach water rescue

Heavy waves crashed to shore at Lane Beach in Edgewater and the same conditions could be seen at North Avenue Beach all the way to 31st street, but those conditions are not stopping people from walking along the lake or going swimming.

"It was just like pulling me under, and it was crazy it hit me so hard in the nose," said Lilli Garza, who swam in Lake Michigan.

High lake levels proving to be a big hazard according to fire department officials, combined that with 25 to 30 mile per hour winds Monday and it can be deadly.

"We watch helicopters circling around here trying to find people, so I'm always saying when I do my swim, hopefully I don't come across a body down there," said Eric Bloomingdale.

CFD officials said over the weekend they had eight rescues, which included four people in the water and four boats in distress.

Saturday, 31-year-old Jose Rubio was boating off of Diversey Harbor, when he and his brother jumped into Lake Michigan for a swim. As a quick moving storm front came in, the men were separated from the boat, which officials say was not properly anchored.

Rubio drowned. His brother, was rescued as he tried to swim towards shore.

Sunday, Chicago emergency officials issued an important reminder about water safety, telling people they need to know how to operate their vessels, pay attention to water conditions and have safety equipment on board at all times. At least twenty people have drowned so far this year in Lake Michigan.

Meanwhile, if you see a red flag on the beaches, that means you won't be allowed in the water. Everyone along the lake is a risk under these conditions.

CFD has responded to three distress calls Monday, and six over the weekend.

Chicago Fire Department, Chicago Police Marine Unit and the U.S. Coast Guard are actively patrolling the city's lakefront.