Chicago police monitor as hundreds show up at Montrose Harbor despite Friday Swim Club cancellation

ByJessica D'Onofrio and Stephanie Wade and the ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Friday, August 25, 2023
Despite dangerous conditions, hundreds show up for Friday Swim Club
A Beach Hazard Statement and official cancellation wasn't enough to keep hundreds away from Lake Michigan for the Friday Swim Club, and more lake dangers have officials concerned a

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Organizers of the Friday Swim Club announced that it would be canceled this week, but hundreds of people still showed up Friday morning, with many jumping in Lake Michigan despite the dangerous swimming conditions.

A Beach Hazard was in effect along Lake Michigan until 1 p.m. for dangerous swimming conditions. Another beach Hazard has been issued for the shores of Lake Michigan, from Wisconsin all the way around to Michigan, from 9 a.m. Saturday until l10 a.m. Sunday.

Northeast winds from 15 to 30 miles per hour will create waves between four and seven feet tall and cause dangerous rip currents.

Chicago police officers spent their morning at Montrose Beach, keeping an eye on the swimmers.

"They were telling people not to dive, not to flip but overall they were just making sure we were ok and not drowning," swimmer Dana Rowe said.

Chopper 7 flew above the scene as dozens gathered near the water and then jumped in at 7 a.m.

Friday Swim Club organizers cancelled the event, but dozens showed up anyway to jump in Lake Michigan.

"This week on Instagram it said canceled," swimmer Melissa Furman said. "I heard it's dangerous but I still wanted to come so we came out."

The Chicago Fire Department warned water safety needs to remain a top priority, as the cooler but still summer weather means it's going to be a big weekend for going to the beach.

Yellow flags were out, cautioning swimmers about the rough waters.

The swim club takes place at a part of the lakefront where swimming is not allowed. Organizers say safety is a high priority.

"I think that if there are safety concerns and if there's permit concerns, that trying to take steps to make it safer rather than eliminating it would be the way to go," swimmer Sam Geiger said.

Meanwhile, the rough swimming conditions didn't stop people from getting in the choppy water to train for Sunday's Lifetime Chicago Triathlon.

Damien Goodman, who is training for the triathlon, is planning to take it easy.

"The whole way here I was thinking, well, I don't know, maybe I shouldn't go out, but you know, I decided I'd come down here and see if anyone else is going out," Goodman said.

2 critical after being pulled from Lake Michigan at separate Chicago beaches

Late Thursday night, rescue crews were busy pulling two different people from the lake.

The first incident happened at around 5pm at Ohio Street Beach. A man was rescued and is in critical condition.

Then just hours later, a 65 year old man was rescued at 31st Street Beach. He is also in critical condition.

Joe Pilewski got out of the water for safety reasons.

"First thing of course is our prayers go out to their friends and family but you have to respect the water," swimmer Joe Pilewski said. "If the conditions are rough stay out."

Meanwhile, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project has some concerns since the beaches are officially still open for two more weekends. They say at least 24 people have drowned in Lake Michigan so far this year.

"Overall these drownings are down about 35 percent over last year but drownings don't happen linear," Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project said. "We can see spikes in drownings, we can have a weekend where we'll have 5 or up to 10 drownings across the Great Lakes so we don't want to put our safety attention to the side."

Chicago beaches are only officially open for two more weeks. Starting after Labor Day, there will be no more lifeguards monitoring the water, so at that point you are swimming at your own risk.