Temperatures heating up

It could be worse.

On July 5, 1936, the temperature in Champaign-Urbana climbed to a record 102 degrees Fahrenheit for the day, and over the next week several record temperatures of over 100 degrees, including 107 on July 15, were set.

Fast forward two decades. On July 14, 1954, Champaign-Urbana recorded the all-time hottest day on record: a scorching 109 degrees. For the state, the hottest recorded temperature was 117 in the East St. Louis area that year, according to Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel.

Last summer Champaign-Urbana hit 100 degrees a few times in July. But before that, there was a long spell without 100-degree-days, according to Angel. In fact, prior to last July, the area hadn't seen 100 degrees on the thermometers since July 1995.

"They kind of travel in bunches. Almost all are associated with droughts or a drought situation," Angel said.

And it has been a dry spring and summer so far for much of Illinois and Indiana.

Other hot, dry periods occurred in the 1930s, 1954 and 1988, with the '30s being the hottest decade for Illinois, he said. In 1936 alone, Champaign-Urbana hit 100 degrees 15 times.

That's right: 15 times.

It could be worse. But it's going to be hot for a couple of days, according to the National Weather Service.

Over at Sholem Pool in Champaign, the Champaign Park District plans to increase staffing over the next few days to keep staff cool and to accommodate what could be big crowds.

Lifeguards "are more accustomed to being in the heat, but we do rotate them out of the chairs approximately every 20 minutes and they take a break every 1.5 hours. We do overstaff on hotter days so they can take breaks more frequently," said Laura Auteberry, marketing and development director for the park district.

The pool is busiest when temperatures are in the 90s. Sometimes, when it's too hot, people will opt to stay inside their air-conditioned homes instead of venturing out to the pool, she said.

"We anticipate a couple of good pool days," Auteberry said. "It's hard to keep kids in the house."

The day camps based at Leonhard Recreation Center, which has only one air-conditioned activity room, have scheduled field trips to a museum, to a performance of the park district's Summer Youth Theatre Camp's play, and to the pool.

"High temperatures and humidity can lead to serious health problems, particularly for the elderly and young children," Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a release. "If the body does not cool properly or does not cool enough, a person may suffer a range of heat-related illnesses from, heat rash to heatstroke, which can be fatal," he said.

The department is reminding people to watch for signs of heat-related illnesses. Symptoms include headaches, skin that is hot to the touch, increased body temperature, loss of consciousness, seizures and irregular heartbeats.

Many seniors have chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the heat, according to Rosanna McLain, senior resource director at Family Service of Champaign County.

"Medications like diuretics can make them more susceptible to heat. As you get older, you don't sweat as much," she said.

"And because of their financial situation or mindset, they don't have access to air conditioning or they don't use it because it's too expensive and they try other ways to stay cool or they suffer with the heat," she said.

Low-cost fans do work to cool rooms, and using one can help you keep your air conditioning programmed to 76 to 78 degrees, according to Ameren Illinois.

McLain said she encourages seniors to keep their shades down during the heat of the day. And to drink lots of water. Not caffeinated or sugary drinks. Water.

"Sometimes they don't like to do that," she said because it will require them to use the bathroom more often and some seniors have mobility problems.

People without air conditioning can visit the official cooling centers, but don't forget the unofficial ones, she said: the house of a friend who has air conditioning, public libraries, shopping malls, even a bowling alley.

McLain and the Illinois Department on Aging encourage relatives and friends to visit or call senior citizens living alone.

Cooling centers

The Illinois Department of Human Services offices act as cooling centers for the public when they are open. In Champaign, those offices include the following locations: 1307 N. Mattis Ave., Champaign; and 705 N. Country Fair, Champaign. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District also is a designated cooling center: 201 W. Kenyon Road, Champaign. 352-7961

In Vermilion County, the Illinois Department of Human Services cooling center can be found at 220 S. Bowman Ave., Danville; and 407 N. Franklin St., Ste. A, Danville.

Keeping cool

Sources: Ameren Illinois, Illinois Department of Public Health

— Don't wait until you are thirsty to drink. When you drink, choose water or other liquids that do not contain caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar.

— If possible, turn the air conditioner's thermostat up a few degrees. For each degree you increase the temperature, you can reduce electricity use by about 3 percent.

— Circulating air feels cooler. By using circulating fans, you may find you can set the air conditioner thermostat at 76 to 78 degrees.

— Regularly change or wash (depending on type) air conditioner filters.

— Close your shades, curtains or blinds during the heat of the day to reduce effects of solar heating.

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