Chicago wilts under 100 degree heat

July 20, 2011

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Patrons at a PNC Bank branch wait in line for free ice cream during a checking account promotion Wednesday in Chicago.

Chicago thermometers hit the 100 degree mark Wednesday afternoon -- and nowhere was this more noticable than on the streets and CTA stops.

At the Kedzie "L" stop, the CTA attendant swapped out her usual post for a spot on top of the staircase.

"I'm trying to catch a breeze," she told passing commuters. "I gotta go home and change my clothes--they're all sticking to me."

On the Green line heading towards Harlem, a rider couldn't contain his feelings about the warm weather.

"Hello?" he said as he answered his cell phone. "Man, it's hot out here. I feel like I'm going to faint."

According to city officials, over 300 residents have visited the six cooling centers scattered around Chicago since the heat wave began. Residents are able to use the centers to cool off in air conditioned rooms and grab a drink of water.

55-year-old Louis Campbell beat the heat at the Garfield Park cooling center.

"If it weren't for a place like this, my goodness, I would literally pass out," he said.

Also at the Garfield Park center was 19-year-old Markita Johnson. She was mixing Gatorade packets in water bottles for her and her family. She said she couldn't recall ever experiencing heat this intense.

"I like the heat but it just can't be this hot, it's just too, too hot, you know?" Johnson said.

Gary Schenkel, director of Chicago's Office of Emergency Management, urged Chicagoans to stay indoors as much as possible.

"Chicago residents have heeded the message to prepare for hot weather -- let's remain vigilant by preparing for hot weather through the weekend, especially when it comes to outdoor activities," he told reporters yesterday.

The city is also providing well-being checks. Residents can call 311 if they are concerned about a family member, friend or neighbor--especially senior citizens. As of noon Wednesday, city officials said the well-being check dispatch center had responded to 43 cases. According to Ben Alonzo, Director of Emergency Services for the city, that number is larger than normal.

"That's extremely high. We usually don't average more than a handful a day, but when it gets hot like this [the number] gets very, very high," Alonzo said.

Alonzo said the well-being check call center will be open 24 hours a day until the heat subsides.

But by the National Weather Service's forecast, that day could be a ways off. They are estimating temperatures will reach 95 on Thursday, and the lower 90s on Friday. The warm weather will then continue into the weekend. The heat wave is the hottest weather to start off the month of July since 1977.

As for the high temperatures on Wednesday, they are the hottest the city has seen since July 24, 2005.