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At 102, 2012 is hottest Fourth of July on record

Nolan Ray cools off with help huge fan Taste Oak Brook  Polo Fields. | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media

Nolan Ray cools off with the help of a huge fan at Taste of Oak Brook and at the Polo Fields. | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 6, 2012 12:10PM



Wednesday was one of the two hottest Independence Days in Chicago’s history — and the triple-digit temperature took its toll.

One death may have been caused by the scorching heat, which is expected to continue through Friday, and also is blamed for causing a section of Columbus Drive to buckle just hours before fireworks were set to go off at nearby Navy Pier.

Temperatures hit 102 degrees at O’Hare Airport for about 15 minutes Wednesday afternoon, officials said. That ties the record high temperature for July 4: 102 degrees — set back in 1911.

Other than the record-setting mark established in 1911, the high temperature never had been above 100 on July 4 in the city’s history, according to the National Weather Service. Last July 4, the high was 89 degrees — a temperature which was recorded by 9 a.m. Wednesday at O’Hare.

Iona Kendrick, 95, of the 9300 block of South Green, was pronounced dead at 8 p.m. Tuesday and may have been one “possible” heat-related death, the medical examiner’s office said. An autopsy was inconclusive, “pending additional studies,” officials said. If the medical examiner eventually rules the death was caused by the heat, it would be the first such death this year.

Meanwhile, the city closed a stretch of Columbus Drive Wednesday afternoon between Balbo and Roosevelt as crews worked to fix a stretch of buckled pavement, just north of Roosevelt, according to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications. The road will be closed Thursday between Monroe and Roosevelt in preparation for Taste of Chicago, which begins July 11, said Peter Scales, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation.

The number of 911 calls related to heat doubled to 48 on Wednesday from Tuesday’s 24, said Office of Emergency Management and Communications spokesperson Delores Robinson.

Robinson said the difference could well be the heat index, which stood at 105 to 110 degrees Wednesday afternoon, compared with a peak of 99 on Tuesday.

“It’s one thing for the temperature to be 100,” she said. “There might be a breeze that wouldn’t make it feel like 100. When the heat index climbs to that number, it feels like 100.”

No relief is in store for Thursday. The weather service is maintaining an excessive heat warning across Cook County until 6 p.m. Friday.

Things are not much better in the suburbs, as a heat advisory is in effect until 10 p.m. Friday.

Because of the heat, Chicago Public Schools is cancelling summer classes at 18 schools Thursday that don’t have air conditioning. The closures include: Altgeld, Attucks, Bennett, Brentano, Courtenay, Faraday, Gregory, Hedges, Holden, Jahn, Kenwood, Manierre, Mayo, Penn, Pierce, Pope, Stevenson, and Harold Washington.

Thursday and Friday also are expected to reach 100 degrees, the weather service said. Thursday is expected to be intensely hot and humid, with hazy, partly cloudy skies. A record temperature could be reached on Thursday, since the record high, set in 1911, is 102 degrees. High temperatures Thursday and Friday could reach 105 degrees, and peak afternoon heat index readings could be 105 to 115 degrees, the weather service said.

The record high for July 6 is 99 degrees, set in 1988.

The weather service advises people to drink plenty of fluids, stay out of the sun and try to spend time in an air-conditioned room. Even just two hours per day in air conditioning can significantly reduce the risk of heat-related illness. Other tips for beating the heat include; eat frequent small meals, avoid high protein foods, and check on relatives and neighbors.

The weather service also reminds people not to leave children or pets in a closed vehicle, even for a few minutes. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach 140 to 190 degrees within 30 minutes on a hot sunny day.

Contributing: Diana Novak, Sandra Guy and Francine Knowles



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