"Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it."
Mark Twain said that. Ordinarily, Chicagoans would have laughed along with this famous bit of wisdom. But in July of 1995, few people were in the mood for humor. The hot weather was becoming serious.
It began on Wednesday, July 12. That day the O'Hare temperature hit 98. On Thursday the high was 106, a new all-time record. Friday got to 102, and Saturday topped off at 99. It was humid, too--none of that "dry heat" business like Phoenix or Vegas.
Now it was Sunday. No rain in the forecast. No cool front. The weather bureau said that temperatures might bounce back over 100 again.
Out in the neighborhoods people were dying--literally. The papers said the toll had already passed 300. Many of the victims were older people who had no air conditioning.
Chicago had suffered through a major heat wave in 1934. There had been fewer deaths then. And air conditioning had been rare in those days.
But crime had been rare, too. Sixty years before, people in stifling apartments could leave their windows wide open all night without fear. Thousands had beaten the heat by sleeping in parks. Those options weren't practical in 1995.
One thing hadn't changed.