Chicagoans seek relief from heat wave

July 19, 2011 8:22:12 PM PDT
A thick fog rolled in along Chicago's lakefront Tuesday, cutting visibility to just a few feet.

The fog forced the city to ban swimming at all but one of Chicago's beaches. Lifeguards couldn't see people in the water, making it impossible to ensure the safety of swimmers. All 24 of the city's beaches are open but going in the water is not allowed.

The worst of the heat wave is still to come. An excessive heat warning goes into effect at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

With temperatures in the 90s, people were forced to find other ways to cool off Tuesday.

A pool helps, especially one where you don't have to worry about the sun. Several Chicago Park District South Side camps were able to escape the heat by using an indoor pool facility.

Kids were allowed a short time outside, but it only took couple minutes for them to become unhappy campers.

"We're just bringing it inside, making fun and games, game room time, dance and fitness exercises. Just whatever we do outside, we can always do it inside," said Farrah Tunks, Chicago Park District supervisor.

At Chrispus Attucks Elementary School, it was warmer inside the building than it was outside. With two broken air conditioners, the teacher and students relied on a single fan to cool their summer school class off.

"They are coping as best they can. Some of them have to put heads down. We've allowed them to bring water, we are giving them water. Yesterday, a teacher came down just drenched," said Dr. Elaine Joyner, principal.

With broken and old air conditioners that barely work, Dr. Joyner is worried about the end of the week when temperatures are expected to be close to 100 degrees.

"We're kind of anxious. We know they can't learn up to their maximum capacity just trying to cool off," she said.

For those who do have working air conditioners, ComEd crews were out to make sure the system does not become overloaded.

"Two circuits should be feeding the area, but right now it's on one. So it's heavily stressed. So we are trying to relieve that," said Al Rice, Com-Ed crew leader.

ComEd activated its emergency plan, meaning crews are working 16 hours on, 8 off. For safety they must wear flame-retardant clothing which can be very hot. For Rice, it's all about what you are used to.

"This is one of my first years enjoying an air-conditioned truck. I spent most of my career in a truck with no air condition. So I'm pretty much used to it," he said.

The park district said swimming will be allowed again once the fog lifts. It is up to the lifeguards on individual beaches to make that determination.

In addition, the extreme heat caused some trouble on the roads. Westchester police said part of Mannheim road buckled because of the heat. A northbound lane was closed near Oxford for a while, but crews have already repaired the damage and opened the road.

While heat wasn't being blamed for a power outage in the western suburbs, it was more of a concern because of the heat. About 12,000 customers lost power just after 6 p.m. in the Glen Ellyn, Wheaton and Lombard area. ComEd said a circuit breaker failed.

City officials are reminding residents to check on the elderly and seniors with disabilities. Anyone can request a well-being check by calling 311. Chicago Public Schools distributed 1,500 fans to classrooms in an effort to keep cool. Many schools have at least partial air conditioning. Residents may go to public buildings such as libraries and police stations to keep cool.

The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services operates six cooling centers, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Those who need transportation to a cooling center may call 311. Those locations:

  • Englewood Center
    845 W. 69th Street
    Chicago, IL 60621
    312-747-0200
  • Garfield Center
    10 S. Kedzie Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60612
    312-746-5400
  • King Center
    4314 S. Cottage Grove
    Chicago, IL 60653
    312-747-2300
  • North Area
    4740 N. Sheridan Road
    Chicago, IL 60640
    312-744-2580
  • South Chicago
    8650 S. Commercial Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60617
    312-747-0500
  • Trina Davila
    4357 W. Armitage Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60639
    312-744-2014

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