Waterspouts formed on Lake Michigan Wednesday amid gusty winds and high, damaging waves, according to multiple reports on social media.
The atmospheric phenomenon that resembles a tornado-like column of swirling air on water was spotted mid-day on Wednesday. On Twitter, @jennyydiehl said she saw a waterspout form at about 11:53 a.m., followed by a second one minutes later and then two simultaneously. (See her video in the player above.)
NBC 5 Storm Team meteorologist Paul Deanno said waterspouts can occur in windy and unstable environments over large bodies of water. While they are less common in Lake Michigan than locations like the Gulf Of Mexico or the Atlantic Coast of Florida, they can and do happen.
"They pose no threat to land," Deanno said, "but you’d certainly want to stay away from a waterspout if you’re on a boat!"
Waves ranging from 10 to 15 feet high are expected along the lake this week, with wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour helping to drive the massive waves toward shore.
The National Weather Service has issued several advisories and warnings against swimming or going out on piers or other structures along the lake, and city officials are reminding residents that beaches are closed.
Some residents fear the water will continue to advance toward their homes.
Keesha Kidan, whose condo building is located near the intersection of 73rd Street and South Shore, has seen the brunt of the impact of rising lake levels during storms for several years.
“On one hand, it’s living on the lake. It’s beautiful,” Kidan said. “But on the other hand, when it’s stormy and windy like this, it’s very difficult.”
Several years ago, Kidan and her fellow residents were fed up and decided to take action, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on mitigation measures, including large cement blocks to help fortify the shoreline.
“We put in these cement blocks to try to serve as a barrier,” she said. “It’s scary to think about the water coming closer and closer.”
Lakeshore erosion has become an increasing problem both in Chicago and in surrounding suburbs in recent years, with Lake Michigan’s water levels reaching historic highs. Frequent storms have caused serious erosion in many places, including along the dunes located on the lakeshore in Indiana.
The Army Corps of Engineers has worked in some locations to address the problem, bolstering several spots along the shoreline in Chicago. Kidan worries that long-term solutions may be too slow in developing, however.
“We’re just working-class people that are trying to maintain our living environment, and to be comfortable and safe,” she said.