The 1995 Chicago Heat Wave

Over 700 people died in the 1995 Chicago heatwave, making it one of the worst natural disasters ever in the United States.  From July 12th through July 15h the temperature was close to 100 degrees. One day the temperature was 104, but with the humidity it felt like 119. The parking lots, roads, buildings, and sidewalks got extremely hot during the day and kept the city hot a night. That is called the ‘urban heat island effect.” Many people tried to cool down by going to the beach or using the fire hydrants in the streets.

Many of the700 people who died were older adults who lived alone in apartments and didn’t have air conditioning or could not afford to turn it on. Most of the victims of the heat wave were found dead in their overheated apartments. Thousands of others were treated for heat- related illnesses emergency rooms. Many lessons were learned from this disaster and afterwards more effort was put into reaching the elderly and getting people to cooling centers.

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Photo credit: FEMA/Carolyn Deming