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Heat-related illnesses in Austin are up nearly 90% from last year

A woman in pink pants and a white tank top leans over a railing to hand water bottles to a line of people.
Renee Dominguez
KUT News
The city plans to provide water bottles and other aid to people experiencing homelessness as temperatures rise in Austin this summer.

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Heat-related illnesses have significantly spiked since last year, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said on Tuesday, adding that the problem will likely only worsen as temperatures in Central Texas continue to climb into summer.

Robert Luckritz, chief for Austin-Travis County EMS, said EMS medics have responded to 177 calls for help related to heat since the beginning of April, which is an almost 90% increase over the same period last year.

As weather forecasters predict yet another scorching hot summer, Austin and Travis County officials are warning residents to be prepared and take precautions to avoid becoming overheated.

The most recent calls for heat exhaustion came over the Memorial Day weekend. From Friday to Monday, Luckritz said medics responded to 54 heat-related emergencies. By comparison, there were only eight heat-related emergencies during the holiday weekend in 2023.

“It’s important that we take heat-related illnesses very seriously both for ourselves and for those who are around us,” he said.

People at greatest risk for heat exhaustion are the elderly, people with medical vulnerabilities, like heart disease and high blood pressure, and children and babies. People who work and exercise or spend time outdoors are also extremely vulnerable.

Ken Snipes, director of Austin’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said 123 trips to Austin-area hospitals for heat-related illnesses were recorded in May. That is up from 48 recorded trips during May 2023.

At least 21 people died last year from becoming overheated, according to data from the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office.

Prepare for a long, hot summer

As the summer weather gets into full swing, Snipes said the community should prepare for a long, hot summer.

"Longtime Austinites are familiar with the heat and humidity we experience every summer, but should not take preparations for granted,” Snipes said. “New residents and visitors should be particularly cautious as they may not be prepared for the impacts of extreme heat.”

He said it is important for “everyone to be aware of measures to take to protect yourself, loved ones and pets from heat-related illness.”

That includes drinking plenty of water, using and reapplying sunscreen, wearing loose-fit clothing, taking frequent breaks in the shade, and limiting activities to early morning or late evening.

Residents should also practice car safety and remember to check back seats for people and pets before locking car doors.

Make sure to cool down and seek shade

Places like libraries, recreation centers and other city facilities will operate as cooling centers during normal business hours. Locations can be found at

“Cooling centers are meant to be a temporary reprieve from the heat for anyone needing to cool off during the hottest times of the day,” Snipes said.

On days with an excessive heat warning, CapMetro will provide rides to cooling centers at no cost. Riders should inform the operator they are going to a cooling center when boarding.

For people experiencing homelessness, Homeless Strategy Officer David Gray said the city has opened a seven-day-a-week cooling center at the ARCH and a cooling station dubbed “The Oasis” that will be set up in the parking lot near the ARCH and the 8th Street Shelter. People can cool off, grab water and receive help connecting to other services, including accessing shelter.

The city is currently under stage 2 drought water use restrictions, but city leaders are urging residents to conserve as much as possible.

There are many other safety tips to stay cool. Those can be found at

Luz Moreno-Lozano is the Austin City Hall reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @LuzMorenoLozano.
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