Ask Josh Fitzpatrick: Looking Back at a Deadly Heat Wave!

One of the deadliest U.S. heat waves occurred in Chicago in July 1995. Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick takes a look back.

As we all know, our area is in the middle of a nasty heat wave!  But it could be worse. Sixteen years ago a major heat wave hit the Mid West and Chicago was center stage for one of the deadliest natural disasters in United States history. 

I've received a few questions from my blog readers about this heat wave. 

Shelly Bradley from Ashland, KY asks: "During Chicago's killer heat wave in July 1995, how many days had temperatures above 90 degrees and how many above 100? Did they get close to any all-time highest temperature?

The mid-July 1995 heat wave stands as Chicago's worst weather disaster, claiming more than 750 lives!  The heat was stifling and Midway Airport temperatures tell the torrid story. The heat wave started July 10 and 11 with back-to-back highs of 90 and kicked into high gear the next five days with highs of 98,106,102, 99 and 94.  Sunset brought little relief with overnight lows in the 80s on two nights --- 81 on July 13 and 84 on July 14. The 106-degree high July 13 fell a trifle shy of Midway Airport's record high of 109 (on July 23, 1934); and the 84-degree low July 14 is just one degree short of the highest minimum of 85 (recorded July 29, 1916).

The heat took its toll mainly on the elderly and the poor. Many folks in high rise apartment buildings lost air conditioning and some were afraid to open their windows in fear they would be robbed. Fans just felt like blow driers. 

A lot was learned from this disaster. Now cities have more cooling centers and more resources to combat the heat. It's important to check on your neighbors, especially if they're elderly.  

Put on the SPF, hit the pool, eat ice-cream, or do what I'm doing, stay in the AC!  If working outside, take breaks, seek shade, wear light weight, light colored clothing and plenty of water and Gatorade. 

Come on October!  Who's with me? 

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