Chicago Weather: Splash pads, cooling centers open as temperatures soar, but beaches remain closed

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago had already logged 14 days of 90 degrees and there is more hot weather on the way.

By 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, temperatures at O'Hare had hit 96 degrees. A high of 95 degrees expected on Wednesday and Thursday.

Chicago's beaches are still closed, leaving residents searching for ways to beat the heat. City health officials said it's nearly impossible to enforce social distancing at beaches, and opened beaches have been linked to rising coronavirus cases in other states.

"We want people out enjoying the lakefront. It is one of the jewels of Chicago. But we want to do that in as safe a way as we can," said Chicago health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

Arwady said it's a matter of keeping people safe from COVID-19.

"Beaches have definitely been a place where we have seen COVID spread," she said. "We've seen a lot of places that have opened them turn around, and often they have had to close them."

But due to the expected extreme heat, the city has decided to open its splash parks from Tuesday through Friday.

Park District employees will monitor the splash pads to ensure social distancing is being observed. Click here to see splash pad locations in Chicago.

Home pools are another popular option; so popular that stores like The Great Escape can't keep up with demand.

"People are obviously cooped up, they want things for the family and weather it's pools or hot tubs or outdoor furniture," said Andy Peilet, Great Escape. "People just want something they can do at home."

Many people take finding relief from the sweltering heat into their own hands and open fire hydrants, but the Chicago Fire Department cautions that can be dangerous for many reasons.

"If they should malfunction and we can't shut them off, that's an issue, as well as kids playing in hydrants. Drivers may not see that kid running through that water," cautioned Chief Walter Schroeder.

Even staying in the shade while outdoors is a preferred option, or making the indoors a lot cooler.

"We're about to go get a cooler fan to try to wait it out for a little bit longer," said walker Paivia Brown.

In an effort to save some money on electric bills, Brown is buying another fan for her home. But with a one-year-old daughter at home and more hot and humid temperatures on the way she may be re-thinking her plan.

"I'm hot all the time," she said. "It's hard to sleep, I need my sleep. I have a one year old, so her too, she's like struggling in bed with me. We're going to figure it out. Most likely I'm going to have to switch on that a/c."

Pools and beaches in Chicago and several suburbs are still not an option because of COVID-19, but some of the public beaches in Evanston have opened and folks from the city and suburbs are flocking here to take a cool dip.

"The beaches just opened here and now I understand there's lifeguards, so we can get in the water here so that's a good thing too," said Natalie DuBois.

There are resources to help people during this stretch of hot weather. DFSS has opened its cooling centers through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Englewood Center - 1140 W. 79th Street
Garfield Center - 10 S. Kedzie Ave.
King Center - 4314 S. Cottage Grove
North Area Center - 845 W. Wilson Ave.
South Chicago Center - 8650 S. Commercial Ave.
Trina Davila Center - 4312 W. North Ave.

DFSS has also opened six regional senior centers as cooling areas for seniors:

Central West Center - 2102 W. Ogden Avenue
Northeast (Levy) Senior Center - 2019 W. Lawrence Avenue

Northwest (Copernicus) Senior Center - 3160 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Renaissance Court - 78 E. Washington Street
Southeast (Atlas) Senior Center - 1767 E. 79th Street
Southwest Center - 6117 S. Kedzie Avenue

Renaissance Court will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the other centers are open 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. through Friday.

The cooling centers have been reconfigured to accommodate social distancing and face masks will be required.

You can call 311 to find a cooling center that's close to you.

The hot weather is prompting the Illinois Tollway to launch 24-hour patrols to locate and assist stranded drivers.

Twelve patrol trucks will be on duty around the clock into the weekend to assist state police

Those patrols are also taking precautions due to COVID-19, like carrying masks, gloves and hand sanitizers from motorists who may need to wait inside patrol vehicles.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.