Deadly heat and wildfire risk expected to grow in Texas' future, data shows

Monday, August 28, 2023
Action 13: 'Extreme Weather' Town Hall
Join ABC13's Travis Herzog, David Tillman and Kevin Ozebek as we take a closer look at this summer's deadly heat wave in Texas and the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The words "summer" and "heat" are a common pair in Texas, but even this scorching season is unlike any the state has seen before.

"This really is becoming an issue of life or death," said 13 Investigates' Kevin Ozebek. "We've had 15 deaths in Harris County alone... 50 in this state."

Monday night, Eyewitness News chief meteorologist Travis Herzog and chief forecaster David Tillman hosts an Action 13 town hall, highlighting the heat's impact, from its human and environmental toll to its influence on business.

You can watch the entire town hall in the video player above.

We also asked for answers to your questions from our panel, which included:

  • Hayley Adams, NOAA
  • Jeff Lindner, Harris County Flood Control District
  • John Kelly, ABC Owned Television Stations director of data journalism
  • Kevin Ozebek, 13 Investigates

"It's just hot, and it's really draining on both the infrastructure and the population," Lindner said.

While comparisons have been made between the summers of 2011 and 2023, the difference has been found in the overnight lows, which have remained between 80 and 85 degrees all season long.

"We can't even get the relief both on the human side of it, the animal and pet side of it, and just on the infrastructure side of it, even at night," Lindner said.

New data presented by the ABC Owned Television Stations shows Texas is entering dangerous new territory as high temperatures continue into September.

Without measurable rainfall for more than 30 days, every southeast Texas county has fallen into a state of moderate to severe drought.

Data shows Texas has seen 656 wildfires since summer began on June 21, including the Ghost Branch Fire in Trinity County earlier this month, which grew to over 250 acres.

Decades from now, however, it could be much worse.

"Up in Montgomery County, for instance, there are large parts of that county where as many as 80% of the homes and businesses face an elevated risk from wildfire over the next 30 years," Kelly said. "And my guess is that a lot of people don't realize that we're starting to see signs of it now."

You can see property-level dangers for where you live, from rising heat, wind, flooding and wildfire using ABC Owned Television Station's Weathering Tomorrow tool.

Watch "Action 13: Extreme Weather" wherever you stream Eyewitness News on your TV, like Roku and Fire TV. Just search "ABC13 Houston."