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Updated 10/20/11 – 10:00 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Waves as high as 25 feet were slamming the lakefront overnight and into Thursday, as high winds buffeted the Chicago area. The waves are so dangerous that officials were warning people to stay far away from the water.
A high wind warning was issued for for Lake and Cook counties in Illinois and Lake and Porter counties in Indiana. It expired at 10 a.m. on Thursday. Winds were sustained at 40 to 45 mph with gusts to 60 mph.
Those gusts are the force of a tropical storm.
There is also a lake shore flood warning for the same counties through Thursday afternoon.
Lake Michigan’s waves churned in a ferocious way on Wednesday, approaching 25 feet at times, creating a hypnotizing scene drawing the curious to its shores.
“The wind was blowing me over. I was on the ground part of the time,” Gail Estka said. She braved the conditions with her camera to capture the moment.
“It’s pelting against your face. It’s blowing my pants everywhere; it’s hard to get the car door open to get in and out. It’s almost scary,” Estka said.
She wasn’t alone. In spite of the lakefront being closed by authorities, scores of curiosity seekers went to the lake to check out the choppy water.
“It’s beautiful to see nature,” said Theresa Tost of Miami, just as a wave washed up on shore, startling her, causing her to jump and scream. “This would be like right before a hurricane.”
Chicago police said high winds also knocked several boats from their moorings near the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium Wednesday night. Several boats were crashing against the concrete wall along the lakefront outside the museum.
Earlier in the day, commuters and workers walking through downtown were wet and windblown – with the wind often turning umbrellas inside out or otherwise rendering them useless by blowing rain sideways. Workers were happy to be headed home after dealing with all the wind and rain outside.
“I am just totally miserable. I cannot believe that it’s this time of year again when we’re going to have to deal with this,” said one woman walking back to work after her lunch break. “You cannot Chicago-proof your umbrellas enough. It’s just absolutely impossible.”
“My umbrella’s going to break,” another woman said as she fought to get her umbrella back in shape after the wind blew it inside out. “I’m from Tennessee originally and my family thinks I’m crazy for moving here.”))
Wednesday morning, police closed the lakefront bike path around the 900 block of North Lake Shore Drive, near Oak Street Beach.
Some residents headed out to see the huge waves.
“It’s great, I like this type of weather,’ said James Greer. “That’s why I come out here. It’s rare we see the waves this high. Last time it was that high I was walking and I was all the way up to the bank and I got soaking wet.”
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser caught up with “Jack” the surfer, who was carrying his board back to his car at North Avenue beach.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser Reports
“It was a little chaotic.” he said. “It was pretty good until the wind picked up. It’s all blown to hell right now.”
The winds away from the lake will be strong as well, with gusts into the 40-mile-per- hour range.
Rain will be heavy at times, with an inch of rain in the city and up to two inches of rain in Indiana by Thursday.
Rain should move out of the area on Thursday afternoon.
Temps will be in the low 50s, but the winds will make it feel like the 30s and 40s with the wind chill.