When the state of Texas was blanketed by unprecedented amounts of snow and ice last month, residents were taken by surprise. As grocery store shelves emptied, roads iced over causing serious pileups. Throughout the state, Texans struggled to stay warm as the state’s energy infrastructure failed to withstand the weather.
Initially, officials placed the number of those killed at 58. However, an update released on Thursday by the Department of State Health now places that number at least 111. While the number has already double, reports warn that it’s bound to increase. Some counties—such as Tarrant County—haven’t reported the death toll of the storm in their boundaries.
So far, Harris County has reported the most winter-storm deaths at 31. Travis County has the second most with nine deaths.
Health officials are compiling deaths caused by the storm by tracking forms certifying deaths were caused by a disaster, by notification of death certifiers, and through death certificates issued by state epidemiologists.
How Did People Die During the Texas Winter Storm?
Initial details provided by officials reveal that many people died of hypothermia. The stories behind these deaths are tragic.
A young boy in Houston died after his home’s temperature dropped with no power. A man in Abilene passed away after freezing to death in his reclining chair. Another man was found dead outside his San Antonio home after he slipped and fell.
Suffering Caused by the Frigid February Temperatures Was Preventable
State officials have received criticism over their preparation for the storm. Many are blaming the state’s energy grid operator, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCORT), for failing to prepare its infrastructure for a severe weather event. Just ten years ago, a bout of severe weather throughout Texas served as an early warning to ERCOT’s vulnerability. In 2011, similarly cold weather caused a series of rolling blackouts throughout the state.
Yet, ERCOT and state officials failed to implement any changes suggested by investigations into 2011’s power issues. The CEO of ERCOT was fired and multiple board members resigned over their mishandling of the situation.
Now, the Texas State legislature and private investors alike are taking on the preventable issues caused by the storm. Currently, the Texas Senate is advancing a bill that would require power and natural gas companies to update their facilities. Additionally, the law would create a new statewide emergency alert system focused on warning residents of massive power outages.
In the private sector, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy has lobbied Texas lawmakers to support an $8 billion plan to build new natural gas power plants. The 10 new energy plants would be focused on provided additional energy during peak demand.
If you’ve suffered because of the preventable conditions of the Texas winter storm, help is available. Call Arnold & Itkin LLP today for a free consultation at (888) 493-1629.