CHICAGO (CBS) — The heat and humidity could reach dangerous levels in the Chicago area this week, but city officials stressed residents shouldn’t try to cool off by opening fire hydrants.
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CBS 2 Meteorologist Megan Glaros reports the heat index – what the air feels like due to the combination of temperature and humidity – will average about 98 degrees on Tuesday, but could reach as high as 101 degrees in some areas.
That hot trend will continue on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when the heat index could again reach triple digits. High temperatures will reach the low to mid 90s each day. The nighttime hours won’t bring much relief, as low temperatures will be in the upper 70s until Friday night, when a cold front could bring thunderstorms, and should drop temperatures to the low 80s on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
Kane County Coroner Rob Russell said many people remember the summer of 1995, when hundreds of Chicago area residents died of heat-related causes. Russell said the very old and very young are most susceptible to heat stroke.
Symptoms of heat stroke include a body temperature of higher than 103 degrees; red, hot, and dry skin – which follows heat exhaustion – when people stop sweating; and headache, dizziness, or confusion.
“Drink plenty of fluids. Drink plenty of water; not coffee or alcohol, because they will dehydrate you,” he said. “When you’re outside, enjoy the outside and whatnot, but take some breaks, get in the shade.”
Russell said there were no heat-related deaths in Kane County last year, or so far this year.
“We haven’t had any, and we want to keep it that way,” he said.
To protect against the oppressive heat, residents should drink plenty of water, avoid direct sunlight, and stay in air conditioned buildings as much as possible. They should also wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, and avoid stressful activity, especially when outdoors.
One thing they should not do, however, is open fire hydrants.
It’s a common sight when temperatures reach uncomfortable levels in the summer: residents opening a fire hydrant so friends and neighbors can cool off in the spray of water.
“We know that people will open the hydrants for cooling,” said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford. “We caution against it, though, because it is very dangerous; for more than just one reason. The most important is that kids play in that water spray, and they can’t hear cars coming; and the cars creep through that water spray, not knowing there are kids there.”
There was one such fatal accident last year.
Langford said open hydrants also reduce water pressure, making it harder for firefighters to get enough water if there’s a fire nearby.
He also said, if a hydrant is needed for a fire, and is already open, firefighters lose critical minutes, because it has to be closed slowly, then reopened slowly when a fire hose is attached.