UPDATED 07/17/12 – 10:08 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago fell just one degree short of a record for heat on Tuesday, as the official temperature maxed out at 99 degrees.

The record for July 17 was 100 degrees, set in 1942.

Had that record been matched, it would have been the sixth time this year the temperatures had hit 100 degrees in Chicago.

CBS 2 Meteorologist Steve Baskerville says the official high temperature at O’Hare on Tuesday was 99 degrees, just short of the record, although some thermometers in the area could have topped out at more than 100. The heat index made it feel like between 104 and 110 degrees in some areas.

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Already at 11:20 a.m., the heat index was making it feel like 100 in Valparaiso, Ind., and DeKalb, 101 in Kankakee, and 99 at O’Hare.

The winds were from the southwest, so as was the case on Monday, there was no lakefront cooling.

With relief in sight Wednesday, many Chicagoans just kept on going, even if it meant hours without relief from the heat outside.

Tony Gonzalez manages a Schemetic Landscaping crew that works on the North Shore. He said that last year, his crew took more breaks than it has this summer, despite the heat the area has seen lately.

He said they have “no choice” but to keep working.

Andy has been a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier for the past 14 years, and donned the safari helmet and T-shirt many other postal workers wore on their appointed rounds Tuesday. But he also wore his uniform-issue, winter-weight wool pants.

He insisted that he was not uncomfortable and said he saw far worse when stationed in Iraq with the military in 2004-5. He said there, it was not uncommon to see heat indices of 110 between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. each day and heat indices topping out at 135 degrees. He said he keeps hydrated and said that suffices, even though he is delivering mail door to door and spends only a small amount of time in his air-conditioned car.

Alex is in his third year as a construction worker, and spent Tuesday attaching insulation and doing woodwork on a home under construction on the 500 block of Washington Avenue, in Wilmette. There is no place to hide from the heat in the home, which just framed. He said shade is helpful but said he and others on the crew try to rest 15 minutes and then work for an hour.

Not working in this heat is not an option, he said.

“I have bills to pay,” he said.

The National Weather Service warns that the heat could easily make people sick. Everyone is advised to drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on neighbors and relatives.

Anyone working outside is advised to restrict strenuous activities to the early morning and twilight time. Loose-fitting and lightweight clothing is recommended.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also advises frequent rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned environments for those working outside.

Relief will not be coming until overnight, when the low drops to 78 with a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.

The high drops to 90 on Wednesday and 85 on Thursday – when chances of showers and storms will remain in place. The high for Friday is 86, Saturday 90, Sunday 91 and Monday 90 with a storm chance again.

So far this summer, there have been 27 days where the temperature has exceeded 90 degrees, and four days over 100. The record summer remains that of 1988, when there were 47 days in the 90s and seven days over 100.

On average, there are 13 days over 90 in a typical Chicago summer.

The official hottest day ever in Chicago is July 24, 1934, when the temperature hit 105 degrees. But it has been hotter than that at non-official measuring points in relatively recent years – on July, 13, 1995, the temperature hit 106 at Midway International Airport.


Mary Kay Kleist