The death toll from Oklahoma's historic heat wave reached 11 on Tuesday after authorities announced two more deaths, and Wednesday's high temperature could break an all-time high.
The latest deaths were a 61-year-old man in Tulsa and a 65-year-old man in Hugo, both of whom died Monday, said Cherokee Ballard, spokeswoman for the state medical examiner's office. In addition to the 11 confirmed fatalities, authorities are investigating 10 other deaths where heat is suspected as a cause.
Monday's high temperature in Tulsa was 110 degrees, while Hugo had a high of 108. Ballard said the Hugo man did not have air conditioning. The spike in heat the last couple of days also caused an increase in heat-related 911 calls, said Lara O'Leary, spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority.
“We had 15 heat calls yesterday, which is an astounding number for a Monday, for a work day,” O'Leary said. “Sometimes we hit 10 or 15 on weekends, but that was surprising.”
Heat illnesses have been a consistent problem this summer during the heat wave, but temperatures soaring close to 110 have paramedics even busier.
“It is pretty staggering,” O'Leary said. “The normal amount of water you are drinking is just not going to cut it.”
The highest recorded temperature in Oklahoma City history is 113 degrees, set Aug. 11, 1936. Wednesday's predicted high is 111 degrees. The highest temperature so far in 2011 was 110 degrees on July 9.
Tuesday marked the 40th day of temperatures reaching 100 degrees or higher in Oklahoma City on the year. The record of 50 days was set in 1980.
Along with the record heat, Oklahoma City residents have used a record amount of water.
Debbie Ragan, spokeswoman for the city's Utilities Department, said Saturday's water usage of 202 million gallons was an all-time record. Monday's usage was 194 million gallons.
Before this year, the record for water usage in a single day was 189 million gallons. The city has averaged between 190 and 200 million gallons of water usage over the last week or so, despite mandatory water rationing, Ragan said.
The city is on an even/odd water rotation schedule. So far, city officials have issued warnings to those violating the restrictions, but have not issued citations. Ragan said that may change Wednesday. The fine for violating the rules is $167.
“Typically if we do ask people to conserve water, they will do it,” Ragan said. “If a customer gets a warning, that gets their attention. Sometimes people have their sprinkler system set and they just don't change it.”
Authorities are pleading with people to plan ahead and drink extra water so they don't become victims of the heat.
“What would help us most is if people would take the heat seriously,” O'Leary said. “It's an oven out there. It is literally killing people.”