ROGERS PARK — Jean Fishbeck and Ann Christophersen were walking their dogs near Loyola Beach Monday morning when they were greeted with good news.
The water and debris that on Sunday had blocked the entrance to the beach off a nearby side street had receded, allowing them access to the beloved lakefront park.
“This was all blocked,” Fishbeck said. “The water has receded at least 10 feet.”
A brutal winter storm blanketed Chicago on Saturday, causing 50 mph winds and massive waves to batter the city’s lakefront. The storm caused flooding and other damage to the lakeshore and residences near the lake on the North and South sides of the city.
Rogers Park’s beaches and shoreline homes saw flooding on Saturday, with the storm’s damage still evident Monday. At Loyola Beach, debris and downed fences lined the remaining beachfront. Sand was swept into the park, nearly covering park benches.
Loyola Beach saw extreme flooding on Saturday as water from Lake Michigan covered one beach before flooding the native planting area near the beach’s pier. Much of the pier area remained flooded Monday.
“The water was moving across the beach, not coming directly from the lake,” said Fishbeck, who went out to Loyola Beach Saturday to check out the storms. “The whole beach was covered” in water.
Prior to this weekend, Rogers Park’s shoreline was already reeling from previous storms. With Lake Michigan water levels nearing record highs, two storms in late 2018 furthered erosion of the shoreline, posing a risk to those at public parks and causing nearby homeowners to fear for their property.
Those storms caused the city to approve emergency shoreline fortification work in Rogers Park. Three public beaches saw massive revetment walls made of rock, which were installed to protect from further shoreline erosion.
On Monday, the revetment walls seemed to have withstood the weekend’s storms. But the one area of Howard Beach that does not have a reinforced revetment wall seemed to have suffered damage.
Crews for the city are trying to save the remaining beach space at Howard and Rogers beaches, and so they left some beach untouched by the rock walls. At Howard Beach, the concrete embankment that sits behind the beach was cracked and dislodged.
It is unclear if work to install the revetment walls in Rogers Park was disrupted by the storms. A spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Transportation, which is managing the project, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A number of people at Rogers Park beaches Monday were combing through the debris washed ashore by the storms. The piles of debris showed how far inland the waters reached this weekend.
In Christophersen’s 26 years of living in Rogers Park, she said this is the highest lake levels she’s seen “by far.” There’s no question the high water levels have altered the makeup of her neighborhood, she said.
“It’s really sad because it’s taking over our beaches,” Christophersen said. “I’m hoping that the lake will go down.”
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