CHICAGO — The excessive rain this year caused unusually high water levels on Lake Michigan, meaning far more rescues and boat crashes.
In a WGN News exclusive, the Chicago Fire Department Marine Unit showed the hidden hazards lurking in the lake.
This year, pylons, jetties and other fixed hazards along the lakefront are now right under the water line.
At times, the lake is about two or even three feet deeper than years past. It’s within inches of a record.
The lake level has more than doubled the number of calls for the CFD Marine Unit.
Deputy District Chief Jason Lach and his crews responded to an area near Fullerton Beach two weeks ago when a speeding power boat apparently hit a hidden jetty. A young woman was ejected and killed.
Other recent boat crashes have injured dozens of others.
The high water level has also meant more work for other agencies including Chicago police, the coast guard and even city lifeguards. That’s because higher water means even stronger rip currents, so even being near the water can be dangerous.
Marine Units rescued two fishermen who were swept away near Montrose Beach just two days ago.
The lake level has also meant less beach space and lakefront trail this year.
South of Navy Pier, new white pylons were put into place this week around an old fishing pier because at least three boats have run aground in recent weeks.
Along with other agencies, CFD conducted dive and rescue training almost everyday, so they are prepared for the increased calls.
Authorities said preparation is key for boaters and swimmers since lake conditions can change quickly.
This season, nineteen people have drowned in Lake Michigan.