Heat prompts air pollution warning

August 13, 2010 4:29:14 PM PDT
Summertime and the heat and humidity makes being outside anything but easy.

An excessive heat warning remains in effect for part of the area, and high levels of air pollution are prompting health officials to urge many people to stay indoors.

While the temps remained around 90 Friday, the heat index made it feel a lot hotter.

High levels of bacteria are keeping people from taking a dip in the water to cool off. These swim bans are not uncommon in hot weather, or when it rains a lot and sewage drains into the lake.

Fortunately, though, a slight breeze helped Chicagoans cool off late Friday afternoon. But, for thousands of youngsters in hot classrooms, learning was anything but a breeze.

At sweltering Woodson South Elementary, windows were open and fans running on high.

"The students are trying. It is warm. Our teachers are doing the best they can with the fans that have been provided," said Principal Tamara Littlejohn, Woodson South Elementary.

Administrators say water and more than 1,000 extra fans have been sent to the dozens of year-round Chicago Public Schools with no air conditioning.

Officials say they are allowing concerned parents to pull their kids from hot classrooms, but decided not to close schools altogether Friday, despite a call from the teachers union to do so.

"Even with the heat, we believe the safest place for our kids to be on a hot summer day is in our school buildings, supervised by our hard-working and dedicated teachers," said Ron Huberman, Chicago Public Schools CEO.

Across Chicago, it was a tough day to be out working, or even playing. Swim bans were in effect for more than 30 area beaches because of possible contamination from bacteria, leaving beachgoers searching for alternatives.

"I don't know how far down I'm going to have to keep going until I can get in water," said Jennifer Beranich, a disappointed beachgoer.

In Washington Park, crews were busy setting up for Saturday's Bud Billiken back-to-school parade.

"Drink more water. That's all we can do," said Rich Mondel, Indestructo Rental Co.

With thousands of people extended to be on hand, parade organizers say they'll have first aid tents set up staffed by doctors from Provident Hospital.

The Chicago Fire Department is also providing misting stands and the CTA will have cooling buses.

The Anti-Cruelty Society is urging outdoor revelers to leave their dogs at home. Some may enjoy jogging in this extreme heat on scorching pavement, but try doing that with no shoes and a heavy coat of fur.

"They don't have sweat glands, so they get cooled by panting, and there's only so much cooling you can do, especially when it's hot and humid, because evaporation isn't as effective in humid weather," said Dr. Robyn Barbiers, Anti-Cruelty Society president.

The city has extended hours for some cooling centers. They will remain open until 7 p.m. Officials say air-conditioned police stations are open 24 hours if you need somewhere to cool off late at night.

If you want to avoid the heat, you can watch the Bud Billiken Parade from the comfort of your home. ABC 7's live coverage begins at 10 a.m. and continues until 12:30. The Bud Billiken is the nation's largest back-to-school parade.


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