50 mph winds and 20-foot waves expected along Chicago lakefront

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High winds are expected to generate huge waves on Lake Michigan starting Wednesday night, prompting warnings for people to keep away from the lakefront.

Waves as high as 15 to 20 feet, occasionally reaching 25 feet, are expected around midnight or shortly thereafter, the National Weather Service is warning. Those waves will continue through the early-to-mid morning hours Thursday and aren’t expected to fully ebb until Friday, Weather Service meteorologist Ricky Castro said.

Despite the weather warning, surfer Rex Flodstrom and fellow surfers are ready to hit the waves Thursday morning.

“We’re gonna go look for them,” Flodstrom, 45, said, referring to six- to eight-foot tall waves ideal for surfing.

Flodstrom, an artist who has been surfing for more than two decades, made national headlines in January 2012 after he was arrested for surfing off Oak Street Beach, where surfing is banned. Flodstrom agreed to perform 20 hours of community service in exchange for the charges being dropped.

Surfing was once illegal off all Chicago beaches. It is now permitted year-round at the Montrose and 57th Street beaches, and between Labor Day and Memorial Day at Osterman and Rainbow beaches as well, according to the Chicago Park District’s website, which has additional rules for kiteboarding and windsurfing.

Rex Flodstrom rides a wave on Lake Michigan at Whiting Park in Whiting, Ind., in 2011. | Sun-Times file photo

Flodstrom is unsure exactly where he and his friends will be surfing, but he predicts somewhere along the South Shore to be an ideal spot. People also surf in northwest Indiana.

“Everybody have fun and be safe out there,” Flodstrom said.

On Wednesday, the Weather Service issued a hazardous-weather outlook for northeast and north-central Illinois, predicting winds of 40 to 50 mph near the lakefront Wednesday night. Some gusts of wind are expected to reach 60 miles per hour.

Castro strongly encouraged pedestrians and bikers to keep away from the lakefront. He predicted the high waves are likely to flood sections of the lakefront bike path and could disrupt traffic on Lake Shore Drive.

 


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