CHICAGO — On Monday, local leaders acknowledged lessons learned more than a generation ago when an unrelenting heat wave became the deadliest natural disaster in Chicago’s history.
During Chicago’s heat wave of 1995, five days and nights of high heat and humidity contributed to the deaths of 739 residents.
The medical examiner’s office was forced to bring in a refrigerated truck as an overflow when the city was inundated by the surge in deaths. Churches and funeral homes also struggled to keep up with the number of funerals.
“We are a totally different city than we were in 1995 because of what the city went through that horrible summer,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday.
Today, Lightfoot said the city has coordinated emergency management systems, posts heat warnings, and opens cooling centers to help alleviate the extreme heat’s impact on the poor, elderly and isolated who were the most vulnerable 25 years ago.
Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle honored the lives lost and acknowledged the lessons learned more than a generation ago during a press conference Monday, while pledging to take action even today.
“We collectively created the conditions that made it possible for so many residents to die in 1995 and if we are aware of these conditions we can and should change them,” Preckwinkle said.
Saying Chicago’s heat wave was a type of extreme weather which could become more common due to climate change, Preckwinkle announced plans to remove carbon emissions in the county by 45 percent and use 100-percent renewable energy by 2030.