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Blistering hot temperatures to bake Chicago area all week

People cool off from heas they make their way around Lazy River Monday July 18 2011 VernHills Park District Aquatic

People cool off from the heat as they make their way around the Lazy River Monday July 18, 2011 at the Vernon Hills Park District Aquatic Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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The heat by the numbers:

Monday’s high temperature: 92 (at O’Hare Airport)

Total number of people who visited the city’s six cooling centers: 117

Fire hydrants reported open: 144

Requests for well-being checks: 45

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Updated: October 25, 2011 12:30AM

A gentle breeze blew across the Humboldt Park lagoon Monday — hot and dry, just like an oven vent.

Arnaldo and Leonor Reyes took refuge from the heat beneath one of the park’s leafy locust trees, but it felt like a waste of time.

“Even in the shade it’s hot,” said Arnaldo Reyes, 50, a West Sider.

That was an all too familiar complaint Monday as the city began day two of the Big Bake — a heat wave that’s supposed to linger through the weekend.

Lunchtime crowds Monday were blasted with a 102 heat index when they stepped outside of their air-conditioned offices.

The actual day’s high was 92 degrees at O’Hare.

We’ll get a teasing reprieve today, with temperatures forecast in the upper 80s. Then the heat gets cranked up again — with temperatures expected to climb to 95 on Thursday. But it will feel even hotter, as heat indexes register between 105 and 110.

“Basically, the entire area will bake Wednesday and Thursday,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Castro.

Overnight temperatures aren’t expected to drop much below 80 all week.

“We’re on the eastern edge of a tropical air mass that’s slowly moving east across the center of the country,” Castro said. “These conditions are something you’d typically experience in Miami in the summer.”

The city’s cooling centers were open for business, but not swamped Monday. A total of 117 people sought relief in the six locations, officials said. The city responded to 45 calls for well-being checks due to the heat between midnight and 5:30 p.m. Monday. None of those checked required a trip to the hospital, said Anne Sheahan, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Family & Support Services.

“We’re encouraging people to check on seniors and people who are isolated, or to call 311 and request a well-being check,” Sheahan said.

Folks resorted to a popular but illegal method for staying cool Monday. Some 144 fire hydrants were reported open.

“A high percentage of those are people trying to cool off,” said city Water Department spokesman Tom LaPorte. “It’s dangerous because kids play in the water and the spray prevents kids and motorists from seeing each other. It also affects water pressure.”

The fire department responded to more than a dozen heat-related calls, including one woman who had to be plucked from the Chicago River.

“She said she lost her footing while smoking a cigarette, but some people thought she wanted to cool off,” said Chicago Fire spokesman Larry Langford. “A water taxi pulled her out.”

Rodney Harris, 17, who was skate boarding with some buddies in Humboldt Park, described Monday’s heat as “humid and suffocating.”

He had this advice for how to cope with it: “Your best bet is to stay in the house. If you are going to go outside, make sure you don’t do anything strenuous like skate boarding, football or tennis.”

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