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Kayak Companies Cancel Tours After Dozens Rescued On Sunday

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Two covered kayaks sit at a dock on the Chicago River, after a tour company cancelled a Monday afternoon river tour, due to threats of thunderstorms. A day before, 62 kayakers were rescued from the Chicago River, when they were caught in a storm, and several kayaks tipped over. (Credit: CBS)

Two covered kayaks sit at a dock on the Chicago River, after a tour company cancelled a Monday afternoon river tour, due to threats of thunderstorms. A day before, 62 kayakers were rescued from the Chicago River, when they were caught in a storm, and several kayaks tipped over. (Credit: CBS)

Dorothy Tucker Dorothy Tucker
Dorothy Tucker has served as a reporter for CBS 2 Chicago since 1984....
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CHICAGO (CBS) – A day after dozens of kayakers were rescued on the Chicago River after a thunderstorm hit the city, several kayak tours on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan were canceled on Monday, amid a new threat of thunderstorms.

But the tours were not called off Sunday, despite a similar threat that actually produced a major storm, with winds as strong as 100 miles per hour, toppling some kayaks.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker talked to those companies forced to explain what happened Sunday and why.

With the threat of thunderstorms on the horizon, the Water Riders kayak company cancelled the 2 p.m. river tour on Monday. Customers walked away disappointed, but not angry.

“It’s fine. It’s completely understandable, especially following what happened yesterday,” said customer Dan Lecour.

On Sunday, at least 62 kayakers had to be rescued, after 100 mph winds knocked a half dozen people into the river. On Monday, the owner of Water Riders tried to explain why he didn’t cancel Sunday’s 10 a.m. tour.

“There was nothing on the radar at 10:30,” Charlie Portis said.

He said he watches the weather radar on his smart phone when he’s out on the water, and he saw nothing severe on the radar until 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

“So we immediately started back. The problem is a kayak only goes so fast,” he said.

When he was showed copies of emails from the National Weather Service, indicating a Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued at 11:26 a.m. on Sunday, he said he didn’t see that alert while out on the river.

“Don’t forget, I’m guiding people on the river, so I don’t look at … I let my guys in the house, back at the office, check the radar more frequently than me,” he said.

Portis said the people at his office “absolutely should have” called him when the thunderstorm warning was issued to brink the kayakers back.

“We did not realize the storm was going to come in that quickly,” he said. “We’re wrong. We missed one.”

Water Riders was cited by the city for negligence. Another company, Kayak Chicago, got the same citation for the same offense.

City officials said both companies “should have used more common sense and paid more attention to the weather.” They said they’re reaching out to all kayak operators to remind them of their responsibilities regarding the weather.

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