Rip Current Warning Issued for Lake Michigan

Waves as high as 14 feet are expected as well as potentially life-threatening currents

By Lauren Petty and Lisa Balde
|  Friday, Aug 10, 2012  |  Updated 6:19 PM CDT
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Powerful winds are likely to produce the rip currents that are blamed for more than a dozen deaths already this season. Michelle Relerford reports.

Powerful winds are likely to produce the rip currents that are blamed for more than a dozen deaths already this season. Michelle Relerford reports.

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After some much-needed morning rain, Lake Michigan remains tumultuous in high winds, causing waves as high as 14 feet and warnings of dangerous rip currents along the lakefront.

The National Weather Service issued an Increased Rip Current Risk warning through Saturday and advises people to stay out of the water until then.

The warning stretches from Lake County all the way south to Indiana. The National Weather Service describes rip currents as powerful channels of water quickly flowing away from shore in low spots of the water or breaks in a sandbar.

Rip currents have played a role in several drownings so far this summer, including a 15-year-old boy pulled under near the Indiana Dunes.

"Heed the advice of lifeguards and the beach patrol," the NWS warns in a statement. "Pay attention to flags and posted signs."

The warnings aren't stopping one local surfer, though. Rex Flodstrom said he'll be out in the waves later Friday morning.

Flodstrom was ticketed in January for surfing near Oak Street Beach. Surfing is prohibited on all but four Chicago beaches: Rainbow, Montrose, 57th and Osterman. Flodstrom pleaded not guilty to the charge and told reporters he plans to persuade city leaders to change the surfing laws.

"If you find yourself in a rip current, you don't want to paddle against it," he said. "You could get warn out. So you just want to assess the situation and paddle parallel to the shore until you're out of the rip current and then paddle back into shore."

Friday's cool highs in the mid- to low-70s won't make the day very beach appropriate, but temperatures rebound to 75-80 on Saturday. Officials warn the rip current warning lasts through Saturday, and swimmers are urged to stay out of the water.

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