Nearly 200 people died as a result of the unprecedented winter storm that lashed Texas in February 2021, a new analysis showed, making the disaster one of the worst in the state this past century. The toll is expected to grow in the coming days as investigations continue. Most of the deaths were caused by hypothermia during prolonged massive power outages.
An unprecedented winter storm battered Texas in early February, prompting a statewide disaster declaration as hundreds of counties were placed under winter storm warnings. More than 3.8 million homes were left without power, and farmers lost at least 600 million dollars as agricultural production was seriously impacted.
According to the state's preliminary count, a total of 125 people died across Texas, mostly due to hypothermia. However, a new analysis by the Houston Chronicle-- which came from medical examiners, Department of State Health Services, lawsuits, and news stories-- identified a total of 194 deaths. This makes the storm one of the worst in Texas in the past century.
Irwin Redlener, a researcher at Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, said the number of indirect deaths may be even larger than the final tally the state had reported.
At least 100 of the victims died of hypothermia, 16 of carbon monoxide poisonings due to using hazardous methods for heat, and at least 22 due to failure of medical devices following power outages. Meanwhile, 16 deaths were from other causes, such as vehicle wrecks, while 40 were linked to the storm without a specific cause, according to authorities.
"This is almost double the death toll from Hurricane Harvey," said State Representative Rafael Anchia. "There was no live footage of flooded homes, or roofs being blown off, or tidal surges, but this was more deadly and devastating than anything we’ve experienced in modern state history."
The toll is expected to grow in the coming weeks as death investigators clear a backlog in cases. The Travis County medical examiner alone is investigating more than 80 fatalities between February 13 and 20.
On Tuesday, April 6, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (ERCOT) officials delivered a 9-page preliminary report to the former chair of the Public Utility Commission, outlining key failures which left more than 4 million customers without power during the overnight hours of Sunday, February 14, and persisting through the rest of the week.
According to ERCOT, the cold weather froze power plant equipment, water lines, valves, and other pieces of the generating units that ultimately caused them to shut down.
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