EVANSTON, Ill. – A storm system moving through the Midwest with gusty winds and rain produced rough conditions along Lake Michigan, likely contributing to boats capsizing Thursday evening, north of Chicago.
The Evanston Fire Department said they responded around 5 p.m. to the lakeshore and immediately went into water rescue response, utilizing marine and jet ski units.
Initial reports from the scene indicate first responders encountered five overturned boats and helped at least eight people from the water.
Firefighters said boaters encountered "a sudden change in weather and lake conditions," but all have been rescued and accounted for.
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Water temperatures were reported to be in the lower 60s, and National Weather Service alerts were in effect warning about the dangerous conditions.
A Small Craft Advisory is in effect for nearshore waters, and a Gale Warning was in place for areas well off the coast.
The NWS warned of winds greater than 30 mph and waves of 10 to 13 feet.
Forecasters advised inexperienced mariners and boaters operating smaller vessels to avoid the lake until the hazardous conditions subside.
The rough boating conditions are expected to remain throughout the weekend, with gusts of at least 20 mph.
The cold front that is partly responsible for the rough conditions will also help to usher in some of the coldest air of the season. Some areas of the northern Great Lakes could see a mixture of lake-effect rain and snow as temperatures reach the 30s.
The Evanston Fire Department said its crews regularly train for lake rescue situations and recently held exercises responding to stranded boaters and swimmers.