Houston weather: Houston heatwave danger starts sooner than you think, new study warns

This is Houston and hot weather is expected, but a new study says temperatures can become dangerous at lower temps than previously thought.

Researchers at Penn State University just finished a new study and what they found was, humans can suffer serious heat illnesses, such as heat stroke well before 100 degrees.

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For instance, take a look at the FOX 26 Weather app, and it shows a temperature of 87 degrees right now, but the 'feels like' or what the Penn State study refers to as the 'Wet Bulb' temperature, factoring in the current humidity, is 94 degrees.

According to the Penn State study, it was previously thought 95 degrees and 100% humidity was dangerous. But the new findings show the maximum temp without relief before it becomes dangerous for humans is as low as 87 degrees and 100% humidity.

A number of Houston residents don't run their air conditioning to try to keep their electricity bill low, including 78-year-old Carolyn Webster, who's a widow. Inside Ms. Carolyn's home, it's nearly 87 degrees right now and summer hasn't even started.

"It's 84. (84 degrees inside your house?) Yes. (Do you feel uncomfortable?) I feel uncomfortable but I fell asleep. I'm a cancer survivor, so I try to stay safe, but I only run my air conditioning maybe from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. I have to keep my electricity bill low," Mrs. Webster explains.


"In Houston, it gets to be very dangerous if you're not able to truly cool the inside down and just taking in air from the outside isn't necessarily going to cool it down enough, and because we're on the coast, we're quite humid and that also played into the study. Looking at wet bulb temperatures, which implies a high humidity, which is certainly what we have here," says Memorial Herman Emergency Room Dr. Joshua Feinstein.

"(Does it concern you when you start feeling really warm?) Of course, I get a little dizzy-headed, plus I've been sick," Webster added.

"If you're feeling a little weak, a little dizzy, you can still stand and get up, then get to a cool place, make sure you're hydrated. Have a friend watch over you, get to a cool place. If after 15, 20 minutes, you're really not getting better at all, you need to seek medical care," said Feinstein.

So what happens when your body suffers heat stroke? 

"What happens is it doesn't work efficiently, but for all intents and purposes, it's a stroke. You have permanent changes that go on in the body. Parts of the brain can die when you have a stroke, no doubt about it. (Temperatures can rise fairly quickly when the AC isn't on in a home or a vehicle. I'm inside a car chatting with you and my upper lip is starting to sweat. I turned off the AC when we started, and it was at about 70 degrees then. Now it's over 80 degrees inside the car. So will you tell us just how quickly this can happen?)  As you see, even if it's in the shade, if it's a hot day out, a car can easily reach 120 degrees in a very short period of time. Once you're in the sun, 140, 150 degrees inside the car is not unheard of," Feinstein explained.