Stories by Patty Wetli

The Lakefront Sets Chicago Apart. Now There’s Money To Plan How To Protect It

Boulders have replaced beaches along the lakefront, as part of the city’s efforts to mitigate shoreline damage. (WTTW News)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is about to embark on its first comprehensive study of the city’s lakefront in more than 25 years. 

Jackson Park Advisory Council Wants To Change Who Can Vote at Meetings. Critics Say Move Amounts to Discrimination

Jackson Park, in spring. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The Jackson Park Advisory Council is proposing a change to its bylaws that would raise the bar in terms who’s considered a voting member. Critics say the move is designed to limit input from “newcomers,” and they want the Chicago Park District to intervene.

Park District Promises Accountability in Wake of Harassment Scandal. Public Can Decide If Proposed Changes Deliver

Fallout from a scandal within the Park District’s aquatics division continues to reverberate. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

An amendment to the Park District’s code has been submitted to formally create the Office of Prevention and Accountability. The public can take a look at the language and comment within the next 45 days on whether it hits or misses the mark.

Lake Michigan’s Ice Show Keeps Getting Better: First Came Pancakes, Now It’s Ice Balls

(Josh McCausland / Unsplash)

Lake Michigan is doing the most to keep us entertained during the bleak mid-winter. First came pancake ice and now it’s serving up ice balls the size of boulders.

Chicago, It’s the Space Station Calling. You Look Cold

(ISS Above / Twitter)

Recent flyovers by the International Space Station have captured some stunning images of Chicago, as seen from 250 miles above.

The Gypsy Moth Is Now the Spongy Moth. Less Derogatory Name, Same Destructive Insect

A spongy moth caterpillar. (Feliciano Moya Lopez / Pixabay)

The gypsy moth has been going by its mouthful of a scientific name — Lymantria dispar — since July, when scientists scrapped the insect’s derogatory common name and began weighing alternatives.

Doomsday Clock Stands Still at 100 Seconds to Midnight, and That's Not a Good Sign

The Doomsday Clock is set at 100 seconds to midnight for the third year in a row. (Courtesy of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

“Steady is not good news,” said members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “We are stuck in a perilous moment.”

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words on Lake Effect Snow

Photos taken on Interstate-94 near Porter County, Indiana, show weather conditions scarcely 2 miles apart. (Indiana Department of Transportation)

A couple of Indiana highway cameras caught lake effect snow in action Thursday morning, offering a picture-perfect snapshot of one of the region’s quirkier weather phenomena.

Invasive Carp Barrier, Chicago Shoreline Protection Big Winners in Army Corps Funding Bonanza

A bighead carp, a type of Asian carp, caught in the Illinois River. (Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is flush with billions of dollars following passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Some of those funds are being funneled toward critical projects in the Chicago region, the Corps announced Wednesday. 

Chicago Is Updating Its Climate Action Plan. Here’s How To Chime In

(Karsten Würth / Unsplash)

Upcoming virtual town halls will give Chicagoans a chance to learn about and weigh in on plans to update the city’s climate action plan, from emission reduction targets to renewable energy goals.

Utensils No Longer Part of the Deal With Take-Out or Delivery as New Law Goes Into Effect in Chicago

(Filmbetrachter / Pixabay)

Forget about napkins and ketchup packets too. On Tuesday, Chicago's single-use foodware ordinance will go into effect, meaning disposable utensils will no longer be included with a take-out or delivery order unless specifically requested by the customer. 

This Retro-Looking Rooftop Antenna Represents Chicago’s Leap Into Modern Wildlife Tracking

Some assembly required. Chicago's first Motus tower, during installation at Big Marsh Park. (Edward Warden / Chicago Ornithological Society)

The radio antenna, positioned at Big Marsh Park on the Southeast Side, helps fill a Chicago-sized gap in a growing network of receivers that's tracking the movement of migratory birds and other animals.   

Check Out Brookfield Zoo’s Unusual Approach to Christmas Tree Recycling: Feed 'Em To the Lions

Titus, an African lion, channeling his inner house cat. (Jim Schulz / CZS-Brookfield Zoo)

Most of Brookfield Zoo’s 700 Christmas trees were shredded for mulch. But some were used by keepers’ to shake up animals’ routines. The results were entertaining. 

Give Back to the Land During Cook County Forest Preserves’ MLK Day of Service Events

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

In honor of Monday’s Martin Luther King Day of Service, Cook County Forest Preserves is hosting volunteer activities at a number of sites across the forest preserve district, from habitat restoration to litter cleanups.

N95, KN95 Masks Can Be Used More Than Once. Here’s How to Extend Their Life

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Though N95 and KN95 masks are treated as disposable, single-use gear in clinical settings, in everyday life they can be reused for extended periods when cared for properly. We’ve got tips.

What’s Up? Garfield Park’s Agave. Its Stalk Is Blowing Past All Expectations

"Guien" on its upward trajectory, photographed Dec. 26, 2021. The stalk is growing 3 to 4 inches a day. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The agave’s stalk — which it shoots up before the plant’s once-in-a-lifetime bloom — has already blown away predictions of its top height, and it's still growing. Where it will stop, nobody knows.

Bald Eagle on the Mend at Suburban Wildlife Center After Nearly Bleeding to Death From Rat Poison

A falconry hood is placed over the eagle's eyes and ears to help relax the bird and make the exam easier on the bird and handlers. (Courtesy of Willowbrook Wildlife Center)

Eagles don't eat rat poison, but they do eat the critters that take the bait. The powerful toxins keep blood from clotting, and a recently rescued eagle would have bled to death from a tiny cut, said the veterinarian caring for the bird. 

Frigid Temps Are Great for Killing Ash Borer Beetles. How Cold? We’re Not Even Close

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Studies show temperatures of -30°F will kill 98% of ash borer beetle larvae. Guess when Chicago was last that cold.

December’s Tornadoes Among 2021’s 20 Devastating Billion-Dollar Climate Disasters: Report

(Nikolas Noonan / Unsplash)

According to a federal report released Monday, the U.S. experienced 20 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in 2021, including hurricanes, wildfires and out-of-season December tornadoes.

Buckthorn Is Highly Invasive, But What Does it Even Look Like? Here’s an ID Hack

Buckthorn's telltale sweet potato color, exposed. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

It can be hard to tell one tree from another in winter, but there's a simple trick to identifying invasive buckthorn. 

The Battle Against Buckthorn: A Look at How Local Volunteers Fight Back Against the Invasive Species

Shedd Aquarium's Maggie Cooper demonstrates proper sawing technique during a work day at Skokie Lagoons. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Skokie Lagoons may look like an oasis of green but a lot of that lush vegetation is actually an invasive species called European buckthorn. WTTW News tagged along as a group of volunteers charged into the thicket and tackled this enemy. 

Carvana Tower Wins Key Commission Vote in Skokie, But Mitigations for Birds Fail To Impress Critics

One of Carvana's auto vending machines. (Courtesy of Carvana)

In response to concerns about putting a see-through glass tower in the path of migrating birds, Carvana revised its plan to incorporate bird-friendly components. Critics called the proposed mitigations “woefully inadequate.” 

Baby It’s Cold Outside! Chiberia Notches First Sub-Zero Temp in Nearly a Year

(WTTW News)

Chicagoans woke up Friday to sub-zero temperatures, the first time in nearly a year the mercury has dipped into the negatives. In anticipation of the cold snap, officials issued reminders and tips.

Time To Undeck the Halls. Chicago’s Christmas Tree Recycling Kicks Off Saturday

(Lisa Fotios / Pexels)

Chicago’s Christmas tree recycling event kicks off Saturday and runs through Jan. 22 at 26 parks. The program keeps hundreds of thousands of pounds of trees out of landfills.

Confused About Chicago’s Proof of Vaccination Policy? Here’s an Explainer

Local business owners discuss implementing the policy

(WTTW News)

A public health order requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 took effect Monday in Chicago. Let’s walk through who needs to show what, and where.

As COVID Surges, How Do You Know When It’s Time to Go to the Hospital?

(WTTW News)

Overwhelmed by an influx of patients suffering from COVID-19, hospital administrators offered guidance on when people should head to the emergency room.