M. Spencer Green / AP
Chicago Housing Authority Asset Manager Sondrae Lewis, takes part in a well-being check on Bessie Rogers, 83, at her home in Apartamentos Las Americas on Friday.
Chicago on Friday suffered through a third straight day above 100 degrees — the first such string since 1947 — but that didn't stop seniors from their regular aerobics class at the city's Levy Senior Center. If anything, the heat was an incentive given the air-conditioned refuge.
"They're very happy to get inside," said Joyce Gallagher, executive director for the city agency that oversees 21 senior centers.
But she was also clear that the centers aren't shelters to come in for a nap. "It isn't a place where you come and sit to get some cool air," Gallagher emphasized. "It's a place where you come to participate and socialize — and coincidentally it's air-conditioned."
It's normally in the mid-80s this time of year in Chicago, but this week has been special: 103 degrees on Friday, and the humidity made it feel like 108. Thursday also saw 103, which is just 2 degrees shy of Chicago's all-time record, set in 1934. Wednesday topped out at 102.
The 95-year-old woman's death on Tuesday might have been heat related, officials said, but an autopsy was inconclusive, NBCChicago.com reported. Heat stress was determined to be a contributing factor in the deaths this week of two men, one 53 and the other 48, both of whom were obese and died of heart disease.
Tens of thousands of Chicagoans also lost power during the weekend storms that impacted millions across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic.
At the National Weather Service's Chicago office, which itself lost power for a day, meteorologist Amy Seeley said the stretch above 100 should end Friday. Saturday will still be hot, but by Sunday temps should be back to the 80s.
TODAY contributor Lou Manfredini shares tips on staying cool and handling food without power.
The weather service has received plenty of calls from residents asking about records, she said, adding that no one there was around to compare the 1947 heat wave to this week's.
The Chicago office did post a comparison of past heat waves, noting that the deadliest is by far the July 1995 stretch that contributed to some 600 deaths.
Gallagher, for her part, isn't jealous of city summer school staff who got time off this week when classes were suspended due to the heat.
"It's a little different than schools," she said of the senior centers like Levy, where about 100 people did aerobics Friday while 30 were shooting pool and a few others played table tennis. "Working with individuals that are very energetic and life giving is something to look forward to."
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