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Winds, waves prompt warning for swimmers in lake

Updated: August 8, 2013 1:52PM



Swimmers should steer clear of Chicago beaches on Thursday as high waves cause dangerous swimming conditions, the National Weather Service is warning.

The weather service issued a beach hazards statement Thursday, in effect until 9 p.m., warning swimmers that “dangerous waves and currents are expected along the shore.”

“Swimming conditions may be life threatening to anyone entering the water,” the statement said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Ratzer said Thursday’s northwest winds are creating higher waves, some more than four to five feet up to the shore.

“It can make for some hazardous swimming because swimmers who aren’t really strong out there can really get in trouble easily in that water,” Ratzer said.

Ratzer warned Thursday’s winds can create rip currents, with waves pulling swimmers very far away from shore, much faster than on a normal day.

“It really would push you out to open water, much faster than usual and once you start swimming against the wind, you get tired and a lot of people end up drowning in those instances,” Ratzer said.

But the high winds are temporary, Ratzer said. And swimmers might be able to get back into the water on Friday when the high temperature will peak to 81 degrees.

And due to the more mild temperatures Chicago has experienced this summer, the water temperature is a bit cooler than years past. Ratzer said Chicago beach water temperature is averaging in the upper 60s this summer.

“Last year it was much warmer — some days the water temperature was closer to 80 [degrees],” Ratzer said. “It’s cooler this summer, a ltitle more cloud cover, and it’s getting the water temperature down here.”

Ratzer says there’s hope for the avid swimmers out there. The water temperature changes daily and might peak before cool days take over the rest of the year.

Email: tsfondeles@suntimes.com

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