A heat wave in Chicago 24 years ago left more than 700 dead. The mayor says they’ve learned lessons since then

Posted at 12:04 AM, Jul 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-20 02:04:41-04

A Chicago heat wave in 1995 took the lives of hundreds of people. And now the city is facing another.

In the city’s poorest neighborhoods, 739 people, mostly elderly, died when temperatures reached 106 degrees, according to CNN affiliate WGN9. While this year’s temperatures are not expected to match 1995, they will come close.

On Friday, the area saw temperatures in the 90’s, according to the National Weather Service, with a heat index of up to 114 degrees. And the high for Saturday is expected to hit 95 degrees.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the city is taking measures not to repeat the past.

“We’ve come a long way since 1995,” she told reporters at a news conference Thursday.

“We have pulled together through extreme weather before, whether it’s the heat or the polar vortex, and we’ll get through this again by working cooperatively and collaboratively.”

The way she says the city will pull through: outreach and communication with citizens.

City departments will be conducting well-being checks on those most vulnerable — the elderly, the isolated and those with disabilities, Lightfoot said. Robocalls will also go out to seniors reminding them to stay cool and connecting them with resources to get help, according to the Department of Family and Support Services.

Cooling centers extended their hours Thursday and Friday to 7 p.m., and city facilities like libraries, police stations, community service centers and senior centers have also been designated at cooling centers.

Lightfoot told reporters that no one would be turned away.

As the city reaches out to residents at risk, officials are also asking that community members act as eyes and ears.

Lightfoot encouraged residents of Chicago to check on relatives, neighbors and friends and alert authorities if they cannot reach them.

“As the temperatures rise, everyone should take care of themselves and also check on family members, friends and neighbors, especially the elderly, young children and people with underlying health conditions,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Acting Commissioner Allison Arwady.

And while officials warned residents to stay out of the heat whenever possible, about 80 outdoor events are set to take place throughout the city over the weekend, according to a press release.