Hot weather contributes to 2 deaths in Chicago area - FOX 13 News

Hot weather contributes to 2 deaths in Chicago area

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Chicago's record breaking heat wave claimed its first two lives Wednesday into Thursday morning, officials said.

Jon McCullough's family gathered at the 48-year-old's apartment near Lincoln Square Thursday. They did not want to comment on camera, but were distraught over his loss.

The medical examiner's office said that autopsies performed Thursday showed that "heat stress" contributed to the deaths of McCullough and Maywood resident Eugene Burns, 56. Both men had heart conditions.

"We have seen a lot of patients with worsening of their underlying disease. So, a lot of people with asthma, a lot of people with diabetes and heart failure, whose disease has gotten worse probably in part because of the heat," Dr. Robert Feldman said.

Four other deaths Thursday may also be heat-related, pending Friday autopsies.

One possible heat-related death is under investigation in Lake County, an elderly man was found dead in his car in a parking lot in Park City late Wednesday, and a 95-year-old woman initially believed to have succumbed to the heat Tuesday may actually have died from other causes, sources said.

For a complete guide on how to BEAT THE HEAT, check out our SURVIVAL GUIDE.

Feldman said only three patients with heat-related illnesses showed up at Stroger Hospital during a 24-hour period ending Thursday. He's the disaster preparedness coordinator for the Cook County Heath and Hospitals system.

"People really are pretty well educated about the risks, thanks to the warnings the city and the media have been making," Feldman said.

He said that he'd feared a higher toll but cautioned that the cumulative effect of successive 100-degree days could yet prove deadly in many cases.

The all-time heat record of 105 degrees was set on July 24, 1934, and was part of a hot spell that claimed the lives of hundreds of Chicagoans. But authorities said Thursday that lessons learnt from the more recent, infamous 1995 heat wave that killed more than 500 appear to be paying off this time.

Another day, another 100 degree temperature and another heat record for Chicago, which set an all-time high for the day Friday afternoon and matched its longest-ever streak of 100-degree days at three.

And the heat wave that has had the area in its grip this week is not letting up. Friday marked the third record-setting day and relief may not come until Sunday, with Saturday now expected to reach a high near 100.

An excessive heat warning that has been in effect for all of northern Illinois and northwestern Indiana until 10 p.m. Friday has been extended to 4 p.m. Saturday for Cook, Lake, Kane, DuPage, McHenry and Lake (Ind.) counties, according to the National Weather Service. The warning is in effect until 7 p.m. Saturday for Will and Kankakee counties.

As of about 1 p.m. Friday the temperature at O'Hare International and Midway airports had reached 100 degrees, and the heat index was 108 at both airports, according to the weather service.

That breaks the record high for July 6 of 99 degrees set in 1988. And the high temperature Friday could reach 104, according to the weather service. Temperatures will fall into the lower 90s in the late afternoon along Lake Michigan.

"It's likely to be similar to what the city experienced Thursday," said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Friedlein. "But a breeze coming off the lake in the afternoon should be just enough to stop us hitting the all-time record" of 105.

It marked only the third three-day streak of 100-degree-plus days since records began in the 19th century, and the first since 1947.

And if the 100 forecast for Saturday holds, it would mark the first time ever the city has seen four straight days of triple-digit temps.

Despite the city's cooling centers and efforts including adding 10 extra ambulances, "People die everywhere around the world when it gets hot," he said.

Intensely hot and humid conditions were expected again Saturday, according to the weather service. Highs were expected to be in the upper 90s to 100, then temperatures will fall into the mid-80s by evening. There is a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon.

As a precaution, Chicago Public Schools closed summer schools at 21 buildings without air-conditioning Thursday — a move it said it would extend to all summer schools Friday. CPS also canceled its summer sports camps Friday.

The Shedd Aquarium was forced into a similar position after it lost power at 1 p.m. in what appeared to be a heat-related outage. The aquarium was open again on Friday morning.

ComEd said power had been restored to all customers by 11:30 p.m. About 300,000-plus customers lost their electricity in the wake of powerful storms that ripped through the Chicago area on Sunday.

ComEd warned that the heat wave will likely have one last sting in its tail, in the form of increased electricity bills.

ComEd spokeswoman Krissy Posey said there was an approximate 50-percent increase in electricity use on the Fourth of July, compared with electrical use during average July days.

The utility urged customers to set their thermostats at a constant level between 75 and 78 degrees and to augment their air conditioning with fans.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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