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High waves, strong winds send boats crashing together

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Updated: October 20, 2011 1:58PM

The morning light showed an ugly sight on the lakefront this morning — smashed and sunken boats thanks to high winds and big waves.

Some 20 boats broke free of their moorings off of Grant Park Wednesday, sending the boats into each other and into a lake wall along the Shedd Aquarium.

And the stormy weather isn’t done with us yet — strong winds and waves up to 25-feet tall will continue to pound the lakefront before calming Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Areas next to Lake Michigan could see occasional wind gusts up to 55 or 60 miles per hour Thursday, but winds will drop away quickly farther inland, the National Weather Service said this morning.

Large “battering” waves measuring 20 to 25 feet will continue to hammer the lake shore before subsiding to 15 to 20 feet levels Thursday afternoon, according to the weather service. Officials are forecasting significant beach erosion and flooding of low-lying lake shore areas on a scale similar to that of a late September storm that wreaked havoc for runners and bikers.

About 3,100 Commonwealth Edison customers remain without power as of 5 a.m. because of the storm, most in the city and near west suburbs, ComEd spokeswoman Arlana Johnson said.

Pedestrians near the Lake Shore Drive bike path were advised earlier Wednesday to exercise extreme caution, if not totally avoid running, cycling or walking near the edge of Lake Michigan as expected winds and waves caused wipeout conditions, an alert from the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications said.

A lakeshore flood warning is also in effect until 9 p.m. Thursday. Waves built up to 16 feet Wednesday afternoon and 20-25 feet by night. They’ll gradually subside to less than 15 feet by late Thursday afternoon.

Besides the pesky high winds and waves, there’s also extremely persistent rain.

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