The summer is usually a time for people to go outside and enjoy the fresh air and bright sun. Especially in a city like Chicago; a city that suffers through extreme springs and falls full of heavy rain and strong wind gusts, and winters cluttered with frozen roads, inches of snow, and deadening temperatures. These extremes are equally significant during the summer months, however, and most people, including those that can facilitate safety from it, fail to recognize its quiet, slow, and blistering danger.
Heat kills more people in America than all other natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc.) combined. Yet large scale media issued warnings and government produced advisements are limited to those disasters that cause massive property damage and fantastic images great for our sensationalized media, yet are many times less fatal.
Usually news of seven hundred deaths in a week is seen as a major catastrophe, so how then was the person who had the greatest ability to control this large scale massacre quoted as saying, â€œletâ€™s not blow this out of proportion.â€ Mayor Richard M. Daley and many high ranking officials in the city of Chicagoâ€™s government were warned in advance of the potentially fatal effects of such a heat wave, but as temperatures soared over 100F (with a heat index nearing 130F) very little was done.
In his book Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, Eric Klinenberg brings to light how a number of social, political, ecological, and economical factors aligned to create one of the largest and most traumatic meteorological events in recent history. An event of such magnitude that it doubled the number who died in the great Chicago fire of 1871, and eclipsed the death toll of Hurricane Andrew by a figure twenty times as great.
The group that was most affected by the events of the July, 1995 heat wave was the increasing population of poor elderly who live alone in social isolation, especially those who live in areas with exceedingly high crime rates.