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Gale-force winds, steady rain, ‘very hazardous waves’ hit Chicago area Sunday

Waves crash along the lakefront in Highland Park. | Colin Boyle/For the Sun-Times

Rainfall and heavy winds are expected to move through the Chicago area on Sunday, creating potentially dangerous conditions on the lakefront.

A hazardous weather outlook issued early Sunday for much of northern Illinois and northwest Indiana warns of “gale force winds” and “very hazardous waves,” according to the National Weather Service.

On Sunday morning, large waves could be seen cresting roughly 10 feet above the break wall near Belmont Harbor.

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Sunday’s forecast calls for a 53-degree daytime high before temperatures drop 10 degrees at night, the weather service said. Over a half inch of rain is expected to fall throughout the day, with wind gusts reaching as high as 35 mph. In addition, an isolated thunderstorm and occasional lightning could affect the lakefront area from Gary, Indiana to Kenosha, Wisconsin.

About 9 a.m., a woman was swept away after jumping into Lake Michigan at a beach in north suburban Highland Park, witnesses said. The woman was among a group of twelve or more swimmers who braved the choppy waters and relentless winds to take a dip.

She was the only swimmer who didn’t make it back to shore safely, according to Highland Park fire chief Larry Amidei.

Shortly before noon, officials were still hopeful the woman could be found alive. About the same time, a Coast Guard helicopter was deployed from a station in Traverse City, Michigan after the waves were deemed too large to send out a Highland Park rescue boat.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter searches for a missing woman Sunday in Highland Park. | Colin Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times

The wet conditions could stick around for the next few days as a chance of rainfall remains in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday, the weather service said. However, the heavy winds are expected to die down at the start of the work week.