Stories by Patty Wetli

Chicago Park District Closing Sections of Beaches, Pulling Lifeguards To Open 37 Pools on July 5

The pool at River Park in Lincoln Square is one of 37 that will open July 5. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

With only 55% of lifeguard positions filled, the Chicago Park District is limiting access to “underutilized” beaches in order to redeploy staff to neighborhood pools, 37 of which will open July 5.

Man Drowns in Lake Michigan While Rescuing Teen at Indiana Dunes National Park

(WTTW News)

A Florida man drowned Monday in Lake Michigan after pulling a teenage female to safety from the water off Porter Beach at Indiana Dunes National Park, officials said.

Amazing 5-Planet Alignment Putting on Lengthy Show. Here Are Viewing Tips

At dawn on June 24, the crescent moon will be placed between Venus and Mars. (Illustration courtesy of Sky & Telescope)

The five planets that are visible to the naked eye are now lining up in a particularly unique formation in the early morning hours, all of them appearing in the same part of the sky. Want to catch the show? We’ve got tips.

Introducing Copi, the Fish Formerly Known as Asian Carp

(WTTW News)

Illinois is rebranding Asian carp as “copi” in a bid to get people to eat the invasive fish into submission. Fishermen are catching thousands of pounds a day and barely making a dent in the number of carp in waterways like the Illinois River, where it's estimated 20 million to 50 million could be harvested annually.

Remember the Shedd’s Dearly Departed Geriatric Lungfish, Granddad? He Just Got Older

Granddad, in livelier days at the Shedd Aquarium. (Shedd Aquarium)

We all knew that Granddad, the Shedd Aquarium’s long-lived Australian lungfish, was an old-timer. Now, five years after he shuffled off to the big fish tank in the sky, Granddad’s true age has been revealed.

Flash Drought in the Making, With High Temps, Little Rain: National Weather Service

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The recent heat wave, coupled with lower than normal precipitation, has produced conditions ripe for what’s known as a “flash drought” in the Chicago area.

Chicago’s Lakefront Park System Comes Up Short at Both Ends. Is It Time To Revive the ‘Last 4 Miles’ Plan?

(Courtesy of City of Chicago)

Friends of the Parks is re-starting the conversation surrounding the gaps in Chicago’s lakefront park system and what those four miles could mean for shoreline protection, promoting biodiversity and delivering green space to areas where it’s in short supply.

Eastern Milksnake Gets the Nod as Illinois’ State Snake. Good News: It’s Not Poisonous

An eastern milksnake. (Jeff Servoss / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

 Gov. J.B. Pritzker officially added the eastern milksnake to the list of state symbols Thursday.

Chicago Park District Offers $600 Signing Bonus As Lifeguard Shortage Threatens Pool Season

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

“We need lifeguards NOW and are offering great incentives to anyone who is a strong swimmer and interested in keeping the public safe,” Rosa Escareño, Chicago Park District general superintendent, said in a statement.

International Sailing Teams Join Effort To Restore the Chicago River

Crew members from SailGP prepare to install native aquatic plants in the Chicago River. (Friends of the Chicago River)

Members of the SailGP international yacht racing league have converged on Chicago for an upcoming competition, but before taking their catamarans onto Lake Michigan this weekend, the athletes piled into canoes and helped install native aquatic plants along the Chicago River's banks.

The Spectacular ‘Not Quite a Tornado’ Storm, in Pictures

(Paul Zoetemeijer / Unsplash)

A supercell system walloped much of northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana on Monday night.

It’s Hotter Than Hot Outside. What Exactly Is the Heat Index?

(Gerd Altmann / Pixabay)

Chicago isn’t likely to break the 35-year-old record high of 99 degrees set for June 14 back in 1987, even though the heat index is expected to top 105 degrees. Which begs the question: What is the heat index?

Cook County Has a New Flag, Just in Time for Flag Day

The winning flag design. (Cook County Government)

The flag, dubbed “I Will,” was chosen from nearly 300 submissions. It was designed by Drew Duffy, a student at Glenbrook South High School.

Illinois’ Weapon in Combating Invasive Spongy Moth: Fake Sex Pheromones. Spray Planned in DuPage Preserves

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

Several sites in northeastern Illinois — including Waterfall Glen, Des Plaines Riverway, Hidden Lake and Wood Ridge forest preserves — will be sprayed with fake pheromones to confuse spongy moth males and disrupt mating.

Dangerous Heat: It Could Feel Like 110 Degrees This Week


Mild temperatures will give way to blistering heat this week, with the National Weather Service warning of temperatures in the mid-90s and peak heat indices of 110 degrees on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Entries Now Open for Annual Chicago Bungalow Garden Contest

West Lawn residents Mitzi and Gilberto Cantu won the window/planter box category in the Chicago Bungalow Association’s 2021 garden contest. (Chicago Bungalow Association)

Winners will be announced in late July and will receive $500, plus bragging rights. For every eligible contest entry received, the association will donate $25 to South and West Side community gardens. 

Meet Dolostone, Illinois’ New Official State Rock: ‘This Immense Story Hiding Underneath Our Feet’

An outcrop of 400-million-year-old dolostone at Chicago’s Palmisano Park. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Dolostone beat out sandstone and limestone for the honor of state rock. Never heard of it? Join us for a deep dive.

All Prepped To Vote, With Nowhere To Poll. 73 Precincts in Chicago Have No Designated Polling Place for Primary Election

Chicago voters hit the polls on primary election day, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (WTTW News)

As Chicagoans prepare to head to the voting booth on June 28 for Illinois’ primary election, it’s emerged that scores of precincts across the city have been left without a polling place.

Cook County Forest Preserves Plans Downtown Takeover — Just for a Day

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The Forest Preserves of Cook County will take over Daley Plaza Tuesday to spread the word about all the county's 70,000 natural acres have to offer.

Birdsongs Are Suddenly Topping Music Charts. Can an Illinois Collection Strike a Chord?

Bobolink, seen mid-song. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region)

“Birdsongs: Sounds of the Mississippi Flyway” is a newly released compilation of original instrumental songs inspired by, as the title suggests, the sounds of birds commonly found in northern Illinois.

No More Debate Over Life Rings, Equipment Now Mandated By New Illinois Law

(WTTW News)

Legislation signed Thursday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker now mandates the placement of rescue equipment along Lake Michigan access points, including piers.

Asian Carp Name Change Coming Soon, Will the Public Bite?

Asian carp on ice. (WTTW News)

A stalled movement to give the invasive Asian carp a more palatable name has regained momentum, and the big reveal is now set for June 22.

Bird Feeders and Baths OK To Put Out June 1, Illinois Wildlife Officials Say

(Yanna Zissiadou / Unsplash)

The greatest risk of bird flu outbreaks has passed, wildlife officials said. Poultry owners need to remain vigilant, though, and feeding ducks and geese should be avoided.

‘Bite-Sized’ Taste of Chicago Announced, Will Include Neighborhood Events

Taste of Chicago. (Credit: City of Chicago)

This year’s event will feature three days of a “bite-sized” Taste in Grant Park in July, as well as three days of Taste in the neighborhoods in June.

Monty’s Cause of Death Identified: Severe Fungal Respiratory Infection

Monty in the foreground, Rose in the rear. (Credit: Ann Gunkle)

The beloved piping plover, dubbed the king of Montrose Beach, died May 13. Monty first captured Chicagoans’ hearts in 2019 when he and his mate, Rose, became the first pair of endangered Great Lakes piping plovers to nest in the city since the 1950s

It’s Beach and Boating Season: What To Know Before You Hit the Water

(WTTW News)

Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the start of Chicago’s summer beach and boating season. Here’s what to know before you hit the sand and water.