1995 Chicago Heat Wave: Then and Now

The University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health will host “The 1995 Chicago Heat Wave: Then & Now,” a free, public forum to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Chicago heat wave that killed more than 700 people and is one of the worst natural and public health disasters in the United States. With 20 years of hindsight, many of those who played critical roles in responding to the heat wave will share their perspectives on the events that occurred in July 1995.  Looking ahead, experts on climate change, meteorology, emergency preparedness, and public health will discuss challenges related to preparing for extreme weather events as the temperature rises globally.Chicago Heat Wave


Wednesday, Sept. 16
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.


UIC School of Public Health
1603 W. Taylor Street


Speakers include:

  • Tom Skilling, chief meteorologist, WGN-TV
  • Suzet McKinney, deputy commissioner, Bureau of Public Health Preparedness & Emergency Response, Chicago Department of Public Health
  • Dr. Edmund Donoghue, Cook County medical examiner, 1995. Currently regional medical examiner, Georgia Bureau of Investigation
  • Dr. John Wilhelm, former health commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health
  • George Luber, chief, climate and health program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Environmental Health


The 1995 heat wave brought temperatures as high as 106 degrees over the course of 5 consecutive days. Many elderly without air conditioning and afraid to open windows because of high crime in their neighborhoods perished as heat indices approached nearly 120 degrees. Hundreds of bodies overwhelmed the city morgue, and lack of systems to inform citizens of the dangers of the heat wave and direct those in need to cooled buildings contributed to the growing numbers of dead.

While the heat wave resulted in one of the worst public health tragedies in Chicago in recent history, the lessons learned helped Chicago to become a world leader in heat-related emergency preparedness and response planning.

Forum registration.



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