As an early fall weather system threatens to bring gusty winds and damaging waves to the shores of Lake Michigan, some residents fear that the water will continue to advance toward their homes.
Keesha Kidan is one of those residents. Her condo building, 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,” she said. “But on the other hand, when it’s stormy and windy like this, it’s very difficult.”
Kidan says she has lived in the building for six years, and says that her backyard has drastically changed, washing away the spots she and her neighbors like to spend their free time.
“If you have a small child or a small animal, you don’t want to risk having them get pulled into the lake,” she said.
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.
This week will likely see more challenges to those barriers, as waves 10-to-15 feet high are expected along the lake, 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 after the Labor Day holiday.