UPTOWN — After a record-breaking winter that kept most Chicago residents indoors, Chicago's beaches were packed Sunday after officially opening for the season Memorial Day weekend.
"It feels like it's been winter for so long so it's good to just get out," said Alexandra Smith, 12, while relaxing at Montrose Beach with her father and sister.
The family had been planning their trip to the beach all week, so when the sunny weekend arrived they were ready to play in the lake. But once they were in the water, they quickly retreated back to their towels.
"The water is still a little bit cold but once you get used to it, it's all right," said Alexandra, adding she lasted only a few seconds in the water. "It could be a little better, but the sun was hitting and it's still spring, you know."
Most beachgoers agreed Sunday's weather was much-needed. Nikki Arolay, 25, and her best friend Cynthia Pierre, 26, arrived at the beach just after noon to work on the tan they'd been neglecting during the cold months.
"It's nice that it finally warmed up enough to put on a swimsuit," said Arolay, positioning herself on her towel to catch some rays. But the pair vowed to stay out of the water, citing the temperatures and hygeine concerns.
Simone Norris, a lifeguard at 31st Street Beach in Douglas, said the water temperature was 54 degrees when she started her shift at 11 a.m. Despite the cold water, "a good number" of people were willing to brave the temperatures.
"People aren't staying in the water as long, but that hasn't deterred them from coming out," Norris said.
The National Weather Service said the lake was 61 degrees at 5 p.m. Sunday, but discouraged people from swimming.
Though the cold winter seemed endless, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Nelson said the lake will warm if the sun stays put for awhile.
"It's more of the cloudiness than the air temperature," Nelson said. "Once it is warmed up, water will retain it's temperature. We just need a few sunny days."
Doug Lindborg, 62, chased his twin 6-year-old grandchildren around with a water gun on the beach. It offered them exercise, an opportunity to enjoy the weather and a little peace.
"They require a lot less supervision here. They just run around here and find their own projects," Lindborg said as one of the twins surprised him with a load of freezing cold water from their toy gun.
The twins had frolicked the beach digging holes, making new friends and playing in the water — something he was avoiding unless he needed to "load up" which gave his playful enemies a distinct advantage.
"It's never too cold for them," Lindborg said, peeking over his shoulder at the onslaught of another surprise attack.
Contributing: Tanveer Ali
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