Andrew Key considers himself “one of the blessed ones” — he has air conditioning in his car and at work. At home, he makes do with a fan, and when he’s out, he ducks into fast food restaurants to stay cool.
“Yesterday, I went into a McDonald’s for a courtesy cup of water,” said Key, 44, who lives in Chicago and works in social services. “I just stayed there for an hour.”
A heat advisory will go into effect 11 a.m. Thursday for the Chicago area and last until 7 p.m. Friday, according the National Weather Service.
Along with the possibility of thunderstorms and high winds later this week, the Chicago region will see several days of building heat and humidity, according to the weather service. The heat index, a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is factored in with the air temperature, is expected to go above 100 degrees. High temperatures in Chicago this week have hit the lower 90s, which is actually cooler than it was last year at this time, said Bill Nelson, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Romeoville office. But the clouds and mugginess are what’s different this year.
“The only difference is that the humidity wasn’t as high last year because it was so dry, and this year we have moisture and heat,” he said. “The higher humidity makes the heat index higher.”
Thursday and Friday are supposed to be the hottest days this week, with temperatures in the mid-90s and the heat index between 100 and 105 degrees, according to a weather statement. Thunderstorms are expected late Friday, which should make for a cooler weekend.
But before the cold front hits, Northeast Illinois residents should watch out for heat exhaustion, said Dr. Michael Gill, medical director at the Loyola Center for Health in Wheaton.
“It’s not a good day to go jogging outside or doing heavy work without doing frequent breaks,” he said. “Try to wear loose-fitting, cool clothing. And hydrate, hydrate, hydrate; I can’t say that enough.”
The city, on guard for heat-related health issues, has six community centers designated as “cooling centers,” where people can find relief from the mugginess. The state has also opened more than 100 cooling centers, located at Illinois Department of Human Services offices throughout the state. Chicagoland area residents can call 311 to get information on cooling centers or other city facilities that can be used for the same purpose. 311 can also be used to request well-being checks on family members or friends, particularly senior citizens.
This week, 84 well-being checks, 60 of them for elderly people, have been requested so far, said city Department of Family and Support Services spokesman Matt Smith. The number will likely increase as the week progresses.
“We don’t have a heat advisory yet, so I’m hoping we’ll be okay,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “Chicagoans generally know how to cope.”