Inside the Garfield Community Center, 63-year-old retiree Ricardo Davis was looking to keep cool — and to get information about housing.
“This is a place to be sheltered during the day,” Davis said of the 24/7 center at 10 S. Kedzie Ave., “but you’ll never be comfortable because you’re sleeping and being around strangers. It’s really not safe.”
Davis was getting relief from the sun on Wednesday as the heat and humidity made it feel like 116 degrees in some parts of Chicago — just 2 degrees shy of the highest heat index ever recorded in the city in 1995, according to the National Weather Service.
An excessive heat warning is in effect for much of northern Illinois until 8 p.m. Thursday. The temperature is expected to again climb into the upper 90s on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. The heat index — a measure of what the temperature feels like when factoring in humidity — could also reach 115 degrees on Thursday.
Davis, who is living in a nearby shelter run by Franciscan Outreach, said he always comes to cooling centers during heat emergencies because of his housing insecurity. He said he has been applying for rental assistance programs to no avail and his current shelter was damaged by recent record flooding.
“I’ve been coming here every month for about two years now to sign up,” Davis said. “But since the COVID-19 and now the flooding it’s like going on a merry-go-round. Plus I have no transit assistance so it’s even harder to make these trips here.”
Agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent officials to survey the city’s cooling centers in an effort to locate and help residents like Davis whose housing was impacted by floods. Davis had just missed the FEMA official who had been making the rounds between the six cooling centers across the city.
A director at the Garfield Center, who would only give her first name of Beatrice, said staff asked people to sign in so they could be accounted for in case of emergency, but no identification was required. She said the center offers additional resources to help with shelter placement.
The center gets some regulars, like Davis, she added, but recently has seen an increase in Venezuelan migrants seeking cooling and support services for housing.
Across town on Wednesday, construction worker Colton Pattee was working on a wall for a bridge near West 87th Street. He had to be outside today for work.
“We’ve got electrolytes, fruits, bananas, all that good stuff just to make sure we’re OK,” Pattee said.
On the Far North Side, Loyola University Chicago students braved extreme heat as they moved into their college dorms ahead of the new school year, which starts Monday.
At the lakefront campus, people dressed in shorts and T-shirts as they moved luggage. Many stopped by the Target across the street from campus to pick up last-minute supplies, including fans, towels and toiletries. The school put out jugs of water and lemonade to help the movers stay hydrated.
Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools took advanced precautions when it postponed all outdoor games scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. The district also said all practices must be canceled or moved indoors.
CPS officials said all classrooms have air conditioning, but not all libraries, gyms or cafeterias. The school district has 225 air conditioners in stock to replace broken units, officials said, and 400,000 bottles of water available to give students and staff who work outdoors, such as Safe Passage workers, crossing guards and bus aides.
City officials and the National Weather Service continued to share advice to residents on social media channels. To stay safe in the heat, the National Weather Service suggests drinking lots of water, staying out of the sun and staying in an air-conditioned room. For those who must be outside, wear light and loose-fitting clothing and take frequent breaks.
“If you’re particularly feeling a headache, confusion, excessive sweating, your body temperature is getting red and sloshy, and you feel like you’re going to pass out, don’t wait,” said Dr. Javier Guevara, an emergency room physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Call for help. Call 911, go to a cooling center, lay down, drink water and rest.”
In addition to the city’s cooling centers, Chicago Public Libraries can also offer relief during operating hours, according to the Office of Emergency Management and Communication.
Cooler weather is expected to move into the area for the weekend, with highs in the mid-70s Friday through Sunday.
Contributing: Nereida Moreno, Natalie Moore, Sarah Karp, Anna Savchenko, Noah Jennings