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Illinois’ First Lake Michigan Weather Buoy

By Jack Snarr and Laurie Morse      

Recall the presentation at the 2014 IPC Banquet by Eli Lechter and Tom Heineman recounting efforts of the Illinois Shore Lake Michigan Trail Committee, a group working with counterpart organizations in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, to enhance paddlesport travel and camping opportunities around THE LAKE. One quest of the Committee has been the installation of weather/water condition buoys at strategic locations along the shoreline. This effort has now come to fruition with the launching of the first such Illinois buoy off the coast of Glencoe with the ability to provide real-time, on-line reports of various water/weather related data such as:

A Lake Superior buoy undergoing maintenance near Thunder Bay, Ontario

Station 45174 – Wilmette, IL

  • Wind Direction: N (10°)
  • August 12, 2015 3:20 pm CDT
  • Location: 42.135N 87.655W
  • Wind Speed: 5.8 knots
  • Wind Gust: 9.7 knots
  • Significant Wave Height: 2.0 ft
  • Dominant Wave Period: 6 sec
  • Air Temperature: 69.4°F (20.8°C)
  • Dew Point: 59.9°F (15.5°C)
  • Water Temperature: 72.3°F (22.4°C)

And no, one does not need to paddle the 5.5 miles off-shore from Glencoe to view this buoy data. After all, the purpose of this and other buoys is to enhance safety for recreational and commercial users of the lake before, rather than after, they find conditions to be treacherous! The necessary data, and that from other buoys, can instead be viewed on-line at the National Data Buoy Center www.ndbc.noaa.gov (search for station 45174) or www.greatlakesbuoys.org. Note that the website calls this site “Wilmette”, probably because nearby Wilmette Harbor is more commonly known among the Lake Michigan boating community. Give it a try!

As the buoy number “45174” implies, there are thousands of these weather buoys in strategic locations around the world.   Some even have buoy-camera ability to display on-line a photo of water conditions at the site of the buoy, but I have not yet been able to do this with the Glencoe (Wilmette) buoy. Neither does the buoy have the ability to take a “selfie,” so we have instead included a photo of a typical Lake Superior buoy with two maintenance workers aboard!

And, where do these buoys go in the winter? While like most paddlers, the buoys would prefer a southern vacation, many (including 45174) are instead removed for the season to escape the battering winds and ice-packed waves!

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