CHICAGO — Red flags are flying above beaches across Chicago Sunday, a warning for everyone to keep their distance from shore and avoid dangerously powerful waves that could pull them into Lake Michigan.
"The water levels are extremely high, close to record levels right now. With that, any wind conditions can cause forcible waves to come beyond the bike paths and break walls on shore here," said CFD Deputy District Chief Jason Lach. "That means people can get swept away very quickly."
Kite surfers were just about the only ones on the water at Montrose Beach Monday. Since Saturday, the Chicago Fire Department's Marine Rescue Unit says they've had to rescue four swimmers and four boaters.
A Beach Hazard Warning remains in effect until 5 a.m. Tuesday in Cook County as the high lake level, waves up to six feet high and strong rip currents combine to create dangerous conditions across the lakefront.
"The water is very high," Nelson Hermance said as he looked at the lakeshore near Montrose Beach. "I would say it has a look of danger given that wind, no question about it."
Monday morning, the waves swept two fisherman into the lake at Montrose Beach.
"We had some fisherman on the northern hook of Montrose Harbor, they were fishing, having a good time. Waves changed direction and swept them into the lake," said Jason Lach, Deputy District Chief of the CFD's Marine Dive Operations.
First responders arriving on the scene were able to assist the fishermen, who are expected to recover.
Over the weekend, 31-year-old Jose Rubio died and another man was rescued after attempting to swim in the rough Lake Michigan waters. Rubio and his brother were out on a boat with a friend Saturday when they decided to jumped into the lake to cool off.
The two were swept nearly a quarter-mile from their boat, until divers pulled them out of the water near Diversey Harbor. Rubio was pronounced dead, while his brother was later released from the hospital.
Rubio's death is the 19th drowning so far this year on Lake Michigan. On Saturday, 25-year-old Michigan City man was rescued from the lake waters near Washington Park Beach. After receiving treatment, Christian Rosete died in the hospital Sunday night.
The waves also forced the Chicago Park District to close portions of the city's lakefront trail, including South of Fullerton to 2200 N. Lakeshore Drive; piers at Montrose and North Avenue; and both trails from Oak Street to Ohio Street.
The Beach Hazard Warning is also in effect for Lake County, Indiana until 11 p.m. Sunday, and until 5:00 a.m. in Porter County.