How bitter cold winter blasts and a warming planet will chew up the Lake Michigan shoreline | 1/20/2020 | Staff
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On a tucked-away South Shore beach, there once were cool shallows to swim and buried shells to dig up. For those living feet away, there was the sound of the water, the constant, gentle splash on sand.

Then the lake began to rise. With each inch came nearly 790 billion gallons of water. The beach disappeared. Its music changed.

Time - Deck - Water - Charlotte - Mitchell

"Once upon a time, you could stand on the deck out there and see fish. It was so clear and the water was low," said Charlotte Mitchell, who has lived in a nearby condo building for four decades. "Not now."

Since 2013, the lake has risen nearly 6 feet, going from a record low to near-record high levels last summer. On Saturday, waves nearing 20 feet pummeled an already drowning shoreline.

Wave - Power - Car - Wave - Freight

A 3-foot wave can pack the power of a small car. A 20-foot wave? Maybe a freight train.

As scientists predict more extreme weather fueled by climate change, Chicago is trying to keep its lakefront intact.

Storms - Years - Holes - Shoreline - Project

Powerful storms in recent years have punched holes in a large-scale shoreline project that was authorized more than two decades ago and is nearly complete. Other parts of the lakefront that fall outside the project—like some areas in Rogers Park and South Shore—are vulnerable. And some of the emergency work undertaken in the past two months failed to withstand last weekend's storm.

Long-term solutions—dependent on more studies, additional funding and a complicated bureaucratic dance—are uncertain.

Beaches - Side - Portion - Lakefront - Trail

Meanwhile, beaches have been consumed. A South Side portion of the Lakefront Trail was shut down after a storm on Veterans Day and isn't expected to reopen until spring. At one community meeting about erosion, a science teacher stood at the microphone and called the situation a "five-alarm fire."

During last weekend's storm that closed portions of South Shore Drive, water surged above the retaining wall near the...
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