After climbing to 103 degrees, Chicago ‘cools down’ to 86 degrees
By MONIFA THOMAS AND STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporters July 6, 2012 7:32AM
Children playing around an open fire hydrant near the intersection of S. Damen Ave. and W. James St. on Friday, July 6, 2012 in Chicago. | Chandler West~Sun-Times
Updated: August 8, 2012 6:06AM
For only the third time on record, Chicago cracked the 100-degree mark for the third day in a row in a blistering heat wave that has so far claimed the lives of six people and possibly up to nine others.
And for at least another day, the National Weather Service says the city and the suburbs will bake Saturday in what could be a fourth straight day of triple-digit temperatures, although by 1 p.m. temperatures dropped to 86 degrees. Although the cool-down was expected to bring some relief, the excessive-heat warning in effect for most of the week has been extended until 4 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m past ready for a break,” valet Maurice Williams, of the South Side, said Friday night after a week of parking and retrieving cars downtown.
At its peak, temperatures soared to 103 degrees at O’Hare Airport Friday. That comes after 103-degree heat on Thursday and a 102-reading on Wednesday.
So far, the heat contributed to the deaths of six people, although more deaths are expected. Four of those that were reported Friday by the Cook County medical examiner’s office were: Pat Wong, 91, of the 4200 block of North Winchester Avenue; Frank Proczek, 58, of the 5000 block of South Western Avenue; Riley Kimble, 59, of the 1800 block of West Jackson Boulevard; and Carmen Mercado, 81, of the 2000 block of West Superior Street.
One of Pat Wong’s sons, Ricky Wong, said his mother lived on the top floor of the family home. Concerned about the heat, Ricky Wong said he checked on his mother Thursday night and found she’d stopped breathing. The younger Wong said the air conditioning wasn’t working in his mother’s room, but she’d refused to move into a cooler room downstairs.
“She was stubborn,” 56-year-old Ricky Wong said of the woman who raised a family of five and had lived in the same home since 1967.
On Saturday, the Cook County medical examiner’s office was expected to release autopsy results indicating whether heat was a factor in the deaths of at least nine other people who died Friday.
Preliminary information indicates that majority of the nine had underlying medical problems and died in homes that did not have air conditioning, according to a source in the medical examiner’s office.
Among those who died Friday were 64-year-old Roosevelt Richmond, who had a core temperature of 108 degrees before he died at West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park and Daisy Gopps, 79, who was discovered in her La Grange home that had a temperature of 100 degrees. Another man in his 30s had a core temperature of 106 degrees when he was found in the 0 to 100 block of South Cicero, authorities said.
Although the mercury climbed past 100 the past three days, the city still fell shy of beating the all-time heat record of 105 degrees that was set on July 24, 1934. (One observer for the National Weather Service recorded a temperature of 105 degrees three miles southwest of Midway Airport, but the O’Hare temperature is the official mark for the city.)
That sweltering day in 1934 sent the governors of nine states fleeing Chicago’s World Fair for the calming breezes of Mackinac Island, Mich., and was part of a hot spell that claimed the lives of hundreds of Chicagoans.
Those who are most at risk for heat-related illness are young children, seniors and people who aren’t physically fit, said Dr. Omar Lateef, critical care expert at Rush University Medical Center.
When the body generates heat in hot weather, it cools down by taking blood to tissue in your arms and legs. This causes you to sweat and evaporate, which makes you feel cooler. But the cooling system doesn’t work as well for people who don’t drink enough fluid or whose body is producing too much heat.
Despite the city’s cooling centers and efforts including adding 10 extra ambulances, “People die everywhere around the world when it gets hot,” Lateef said.
In Chicago, summer school classes were canceled Friday, as were all school-run sports camps. And from June 28 through July 4, there were nearly 310 heat-related calls made to 9-1-1.
Some relief came Friday to those residing at a senior apartment building at 1401 W. Roosevelt Road. The building’s air conditioning was fixed after it broke Sunday, according to city and East Lake Management officials.
Unable to bear the stifling heat, many residents of the Near West Side building had gone to stay with family.
East Lake Management have been visiting and calling the apartments to make sure residents aren’t suffering from heat-related problems, spokeswoman Eileen Rhodes said. Some milling about the complex Friday were overheard saying there may have been some elderly residents who needed medical attention during the outage.
Elsewhere there was a little more good news: The last of the more than 300,000 Commonwealth Edison customers who lost their electricity in the wake of powerful storms on Sunday had their power restored by late Thursday, the utility said.
But ComEd warned that the heat wave will likely have one last sting in the form of increased electricity bills.
The utility urged customers to set their thermostats at a constant level between 75 and 78 degrees and to augment their air conditioning with fans.
Contributing: Josh McGhee, Michael Lansu