CHICAGO (AP) — Hundreds of miles from its turbulent center, superstorm
Sandy’s outer bands were violent enough to rip up near-record high waves
Tuesday on Lake Michigan, sending a community of avid surfers in Chicago
into the cold, churning waters despite warnings from city officials. Wave
heights out in the middle of the lake reached 20 feet, short of the 23-foot
record set last year by a strong storm pushing down from Canada. The
difference this time is the winds are from the edges of what had been a
tropical storm, one vast enough to reach hundreds of miles inland.
The enormous storm pummeled the East Coast, leaving millions without power,
toppling trees and killing dozens. More than 600 miles away, the storm’s
winds could still be felt, blasting across Lake Michigan at 54 mph,
according to the National Weather Service.
“Oh, most people wouldn’t even come to the beach today, right?” said Jim
Hoop, 50, who was among four surfers at a Chicago beach. “Good day to stay
home. ... These are the days we’re looking forward to.”
The high waves brought cargo shipping to a standstill on the Great Lakes.
Freighters as long as 1,000 feet haul loads of iron ore, coal and other bulk
commodities on the lakes. Most if not all took refuge in harbors or bays to
escape the storm’s wrath.
Several hundred residents of the lakeshore village of Pleasant Prairie in
southeastern Wisconsin were urged to evacuate because of the effects of the
storm, but officials said Tuesday there had been no reports of widespread
Sand whipped up by high winds spawned by the remnants of the hurricane
prompted at least one northern Indiana school along Lake Michigan to cancel
Ocean-like waves of around 10 feet crashed into the shoreline around
Chicago, where the water can be as flat as glass on calm days and almost a
tropical hue under a bright summer sky. On Tuesday, the water was dark, the
color of slate.
At the 57th Street Beach, Hoop had just waxed up his board and was about to
take a shortcut into the surf by scrambling from a promontory that juts out
into the water. Hoop has surfed the spot since he was a young lifeguard in
the early 1980s. But waves this high are a rare, maybe once-a-year
occurrence, and he knew he had to take the day off from his real-estate job
and hit the water. He wasn’t even deterred by the ache in his shoulder from
recent surgery — or his wife’s worries. “She thinks I’m crazy, but I met her
at a lifeguard party, so she knew what she was getting into,” he said with a
Officials warned residents to stay away from the lakefront, and portions of
the bicycle path along the shore were closed. Police officers had to chase a
few runners off the path.
Meteorologist Andrew Krein with the National Weather Service said such high
winds over the lake typically come with strong winter storms. “The more
unprecedented thing about this is that it’s the outskirts of a former
tropical system,” he said. “... That’s very unusual. The fact that the
system is covering such a large area. I can’t recall another system like
Across the lake in Michigan, winds gusting to 64 mph sent two-story-tall
waves crashing onto the shoreline.
The thrill of the big surf attracted Cameron Mammina to the waterfront at
St. Joseph, where he took his board out among the churning waves Tuesday.
“It’s pretty intimidating at times,” said Mammina, manager of a surf shop.
“Any time you get hit by a big wall of water, you have to catch your