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Chicago’s Battered Shoreline Could Face More Damage As Winter Storm Hits

Just last week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared Chicago's lakefront a local disaster.

Howard Beach in Rogers Park is seen after the storms of Jan. 11 ravaged the shoreline.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — The city’s already badly damaged lakefront could take another hit as a storm bears down on Chicago.

The lakefront has been battered and the shoreline eroded by storms and Lake Michigan’s near-record high water levels for months. Just last week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared it a local disaster, noting beaches have disappeared amid the “irreparable” damage.

Now, the National Weather Service has issued a lakeshore flood advisory that warns flooding along the lakeshore will be likely — and it could “exacerbate already significant beach and shoreline erosion sustained in the past several months.” It also says flood-prone areas, including parts of the city’s lakefront trail, could be impacted and people could be swept into the lake by large waves.

The damage is expected to occur Thursday, and before then more snow will hit Chicago.

Starting about 4 p.m. Wednesday, a storm will drop 2-4 inches of snow on the city and there will be wind gusts as high as 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

There could be a “brief lull” in the snowstorm Wednesday evening, but it will pick up again with a light snow overnight, said meteorologist Jake Petr. There will be more light to moderate snow in the morning that could impact the morning commute, but it’ll begin to slow down at noon.

But as the snow moves out, strong northerly winds are going to “wrap around” and allow for waves to push up against the shore and caused erosion and flooding, Petr said. Waves will be 8-11 feet tall, with some possibly hitting 14 feet.

Temperatures are expected to plummet as well. Wednesday will stay “fairly steady” at around freezing, Petr said, but temperatures will fall overnight.

A cold front will push through on Thursday, leading to “quickly dropping temperatures,” Petr said: It’ll likely be in the 20s at 6 a.m., the teens by noon and the single digits by 6 p.m.

That’s a “fairly quick drop throughout the day on Thursday,” Petr said. “As we get into early Friday morning, temperatures will be right around zero.”

The city is expected to hit 1 degree below zero near O’Hare Airport — which would make this the first below-zero day of the winter — but the lakeshore could be 1-3 degrees, Petr said.

It’ll likely feel it’s below zero out by 6 p.m. Thursday, Petr said, and it could feel as 10 or 15 degrees below zero early Friday. That’ll be the coldest it’s felt in Chicago since last year’s “polar vortex” made it feel like it was 50 below zero.