At least 11 deaths reported in a Texas community during blistering heat wave

At least 11 people have died in Texas' Webb County, according to the county medical examiner, as days of record triple-digit heat and high humidity take their toll on the Lone Star State.

As a record-setting heat wave hits its two-week mark across Texas and the Southern Plains, emergency medical service providers across the Lone Star State have treated hundreds of heat-related illnesses, and several deaths attributed to the heat have already been reported.

FOX Weather's Brandy Campbell spoke with a public information officer for south Texas' Webb County, who confirmed that 11 people have died from the current heat wave. That's two more deaths than Webb County Medical Examiner Dr. Corinne Stern previously reported during a commissioner's court meeting Monday. Ten of the 11 victims were Webb County residents, while one came from a nearby county but died in a Webb County hospital.

"Webb County knows heat, and I think our county was caught a little off-guard," Stern said. "These high temperatures are higher than what we normally see."

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, which tracks such deaths statewide, told FOX Weather they won't likely have a full count of the number of heat-related deaths in the state until at least a few weeks after the event subsides and proper investigations into causes of death can be completed.

Hundreds of heat-related emergency service calls 

In just two weeks, the Houston Fire Department received 309 calls about heat-related emergency services. 

Emergency service provider MedStar said they have treated 177 patients for a primary heat-related illness since May 1. Twenty-five of those patients were treated Monday, which was the most MedStar has treated in one day so far, according to spokesperson Matt Zavadsky.


Zavadsky noted the challenges between how Texans are managing during the heat wave this year compared to the heat in years' past involves the recent wet spring leading to a more humid and hotter summer.

"The heat index, because of the humidity level, has been as high as 119 degrees, and that's what catches people by surprise," Zavadsky said.

Types of heat-related illnesses

People can develop a number of heat-related illnesses, especially when caught by surprise. According to Zavadsky, those illnesses occur in phases:

  1. Dehydration: Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. Some symptoms include extreme thirst, confusion, dizziness and dark-colored urine.
  2. Heat exhaustion: If dehydration is left untreated, heat exhaustion may set in. Those experiencing heat exhaustion sweat profusely, become weak and fatigued and might experience dizziness and muscle cramps.
  3. Heat stroke: If heat exhaustion is left untreated, it might become a heat stroke. Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency in which the body has lost its ability to sweat. Victims may have seizures and become unresponsive.

Zavadsky said his team has seen all of these cases over the past two months.

How heat can affect the vulnerable

Certain groups are particularly vulnerable to the effects of heat.

  • Older Americans, for example, may have reduced temperature control due to health conditions or medications, according to MedStar.
  • Young children may also experience challenges in the heat, as they haven’t yet fully developed the ability to regulate their body temperature.
  • Pets can burn their paws and paw pads on a hot sidewalk and are sometimes left in cars for extended periods of time in the heat.

In addition to a rise in heat-related emergency services for humans, emergency calls regarding pets in the heat have also risen. In Houston alone, the number of heat-related animal calls between June 1-20 this year has increased to 243 calls, compared to 87 calls during the same time period in 2022. 


Julie Kent, vice president of communications for the Huston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said this rise in numbers is coming from community members reporting animals that may be neglected in the heat.

Preparing for the heat

Emergency medical services are preparing for the continuation of this record-setting heat, Zavadsky said. 

Treatment centers are staffing up, maintaining extra supplies such as cold packs and IV fluids, and educating the community about the risks of this type of oppressive heat.


"We don't want people to become complacent," Zavadsky said. "Just be diligent and make sure that you're not doing anything that could result in a heat-related illness."