Lake Michigan water levels blamed in recent accidents

This weekend was a dangerous one for boaters on Lake Michigan with one person killed and nearly a dozen others rescued in incidents.  Now officials are putting out a warning to anyone planning to be out on the lake. 

Saturday started out hot and the water was calm on Lake Michigan, but that changed in an instant, and experienced divers with the Chicago Fire Department say it’s all the more reason why those driving a boat need to be experienced and if you’re gonna be on Lake Michigan be familiar with its obstacles.

Water levels on Lake Michigan have reached dangerous levels. The Chicago Fire Department responded to eight incidents Saturday alone.

“Lake Michigan is just a small ocean, all right? Conditions can change rather quickly," said Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Jason Lach.

On Saturday right after two people jumped in to swim a half mile off Diversey Harbor, they couldn’t get back to their boat. One died. Wind and rain were a problem on Sunday as well.

“It wasn’t even fun, it was four to six footers, but I just stayed pretty close to shore and we went to the river since the river’s always calm,” said Charlie Scharf, boater.

Charlie Scharf has been boating since he was eight years old and echoes what the dive teams says – that high lake levels are to blame for all the recent boating accidents involving jetties and breakwalls.

“Some things that used to be able to be seen are now underwater because of the lake levels being so high,” said Deputy Chief Jason Lach.

“Especially at nighttime, those don’t really show up on radars or anything, so you can run right into them without a problem and that will stop a boat instantly,” said Scharf.

Today, boaters are aware of the dangers. We found many staying close to shore, partying while docked.

“We’re just sitting here enjoying the day. It was raining for the most part in the morning,” said Tom Machamer, boater.

To those who are taking their boats out, the Chicago Fire Department suggests everyone keep a watchful eye on each other, and if you see something, say something.

"You need to take responsibility for yourself and your actions out on this waterway,” said Deputy Chief Lach.

Officials have identified the man who lost his life in yesterday’s boating accident as 31 year old Jose Rubio.