CHICAGO (CBS) — The temperatures might have been cold, and there was snow in the air, but city officials and the U.S. Coast Guard said those were perfect conditions to remind boaters the Lakefront can be an unpredictable place.
WBBM Newsradio’s Craig Dellimore reports the Coast Guard teamed up with the Chicago Fire Department and local boating groups to conduct a rescue drill off Navy Pier.
Deputy District Fire Chief Ron Dorneker provided the narration as rescue helicopters hovered over the lake, and emergency divers went into the water from a fast response fire boat.
“There’s the first diver deploying. He gives an OK signal with his arm. He’s in a mask, fins, and snorkel. The second diver’s into the water,” he said.
He noted Fire Department helicopters are specially equipped for search and rescue operations.
“They have a FLIR camera on that helicopter – a forward-looking infrared camera. That camera could see a duck sitting in the water from about two miles away,” he said.
Authorities reminded boaters to be careful on the water, wear their life vests, and have their boats and equipment checked for free by the Coas Guard Auxiliary. Click here to find out where and how.
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jason Neubauer said Friday’s unseasonably cold weather was perfect to demonstrate how unpredictable boating on the Great Lakes can be.
“I’d like to highlight the unusually cold weather we’re having today, including the snow that was in the suburbs in mid-May. That really highlights the unpredictable nature of the weather in this region,” he said. “I think boaters on the Great Lakes – especially new boaters, tourists – do not always appreciate how cold the water is here.”
Dorneker said the Chicago Fire Department responded to 235 water rescue calls last year, but Neubauer said luckily none of them resulted in fatalities.
“That’s a huge plus for a port this big, this concentrated with the amount of traffic that we have,” he said. “We did have our share of near misses, and thankfully we had … timely rescues and timely recoveries of people that were in trouble over the course of the year.”