Storms bring relief from high temps

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Severe storms rolled through the Chicago area Wednesday night and early Thursday morning providing some much needed relief from the heat-- but alo knocking out power to some.

Most people usually run from the rain, but Wednesday night, the rain came with a welcomed cooldown. As if the rain was not enough, some folks stood under the fountain at Millennium Park, soaking up the water and finally a break from the heat.

With the relief came the ligthning and thunder. About 25,000 ComEd customers remained without power Thursday morning. At the peak of the storm, around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, about 40,000 people were in the dark.

ComEd crews are working around the clock to restore the power. They work 16-hour shifts with 8-hours off.

North of Chicago, in Delavan, Wisconsin, lightning caused quite a bit of damage at a church. A bolt also struck a tree.

The sudden storm signaled relief from the scorching temperatures of the last few days. And it gave ComEd a break from the numerous power outages around the area. Most of the village of Merrionette Park was without power Wednesday afternoon.

Hospitals have been filled with patients suffering from the heat. The University of Chicago hospital was treating a patient who came in with a temperature of 107 degrees.

"This person came in with altered mental status, was very, very hot when he first came in. So our first priority was cooling him down as quickly as possible," said Joyce Libunao, University of Chicago Hospital.

Doctors say the cumulative effect of several days of heat can be especially dangerous, which is why this rain is all the more welcome, because it signals the end of the heat wave.

The dangerous heat is being blamed for three more deaths. That makes a total of six deaths from this hot weather since this heat wave started Saturday.

Tuesday death of World War II vet blamed on heat

A suburban man is remembering a fellow veteran and friend who was found dead in his home on Chicago's Northwest Side. The 82-year-old's death was heat-related. The friends were among those who survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II.

Robert McGuiggan is among 15 people whose deaths have been attributed to heat in Cook County this year. Six have died in this current heat wave. McGuiggan and his wife were both found in their home Tuesday night. She is hospitalized. McGuiggan is being remembered as a good friend and an honorable American.

Bob McGuiggan grew up in Chicago, went to war in the Pacific, came home, started a family and lived the rest of his life in Chicago. He was proud of his military service and proud to fly the flag outside his home. Bob McGuiggan's heart gave out Tuesday. The medical examiner says the heat was a contributing factor to his death. So, in one sense, he is a statistic in a heat wave. But that, of course, says nothing about the life he lived.

Bob McGuiggan survived the worst hell that war can offer. Sixty-one years ago tomorrow, the kid with the eyepatch was pulled from the shark infested Pacific. McGuiggan was one of 1,200 men aboard the heavy cruiser Indianapolis which sank in the Philippine Sea 12 minutes after it was hit by a Japanese torpedo.

Nine-hundred of the men made it into the water, but over the next four days, as they bobbed with little hope of rescue, the sharks came. Only 317 men survived. Four years ago Bob McGuiggan and some of his fellow survivors remembered the hell they endured.

"I tried not to look down in the water. But as close as you are to me, one of my ship mates, I thought he was asleep, and he turned up, he was gone from the waist down," McGuiggan told ABC7 in 2002.

Bob McGuiggan died Tuesday in his Chicago home at 3448 N. Ottawa. . His grandson found both his grandparents unresponsive. The temperature in the house was in the mid 90's. A lone window air conditioner was not working.

McGuiggan's long-time buddy and shipmate Mike Kuryla called his friend Sunday night -- the anniversary of the sinking.

"I called him up and said well it's been 61 years and we're still in the water, and he said yes we're still swimming, Mike," said Mike Kuryla Jr., USS Indianapolis survivor.

In the years after the war, Kuryla and McGuiggan became godparents to each others' children, and together they organized survivor reunions. Increasingly, Mike says his long-time friend became less and less social -- for reasons not clear. McGuiggan's neighbors say that too, but they still thought the world of him.

"I think we were very fortunate. It's very tragic that he died," said Carol Maczka, neighbor.

This is a hard day for a lot of people including Mike Kuryla who asks that his buddy and brother in combat be remembered for who he was and what he did.

"What we went through, yes, but all the men that served in the war, that freedom is not free. We all died for it," said Kuryla.

During this heat wave, there have been -- as we know -- constant reminders to check on the well-being of our neighbors -- particularly senior citizens. There were checks at the McGuiggan house, but his death underscores what a difficult challenge it is to offer timely help to seniors who may not realize they need it. Gloria McGuiggan remains hospitalized. The funeral for her husband is set for Saturday.

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