Brutally cold winter has water temp still at dangerous level - FOX 32 News Chicago

Brutally cold winter has water temp still at dangerous level

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A dangerous and deadly weekend on Lake Michigan led to one woman’s death and three others still missing.

Although the warm temperatures bring people out to the lake, the water is still more than cold, it’s frigid.

U.S. Coast Guard Boatswain's Mate Second Class, Kellen Zanandrie describes Lake Michigan as a “giant washing machine.” Lake Michigan is beautiful in the spring and summer, but it can become tumultuous very quickly.

Boaters over the weekend were forced to jump in the cold water Saturday night when their boat caught fire. The two that were found Sunday morning had been in the water for nearly 12 hours. One one survived.

"When they jump in the water they can't breathe, they try to gasp for air. That's the first thing you do when you jump into cold water, it hurts everyone when they get in. Your body starts shutting down and it's hard to move," said Zanandrie.

The U.S. Coast Guard said having life jackets, flares and other emergency devices are key, but a simple float plan can be the difference between life and death.

"It doesn't have to be really in depth, just let someone know who is not going to be on the boat, of when you're expected to return,” said Zanandrie. “That way if you don't, if something does happen and you don't return in time, they can start calling us and we can come and help."

For people brave enough to take a dip at North Avenue beach Monday, the shallow and usually warmer water is nothing of the sort.

“It's like, it's like as cold as an ice cube," said Jack Ramsey.

For avid sail boaters like Clark Pellett, the water temps further out in the lake are much different this year than last.

"Lake Michigan has definitely had some of it's coldest temperatures ever recorded for this particular date in the season. There was one water temperature I think that was even 39 degrees one day," Pellett added.

For beachgoers, if there is no lifeguard on duty, you enter the cold water at your own risk.

Safety experts said if you are stuck in the water with a life jacket, curl up and try not to move much to keep your core warm and fend off hypothermia.

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