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Death Toll from Texas Outages & Winter Storm More than Doubles, Exceeds Hurricane Harvey

Texas officials have now confirmed 111 deaths tied to last month’s winter storm and widespread power outages, with the vast majority the result of hypothermia.

The death toll has more than doubled in the past 10 days, as state authorities had previously reported 57 fatalities. The number of deaths linked to the catastrophe now exceeds that of Hurricane Harvey, which caused 68 fatalities in Texas.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Service, the final number will likely be even larger, as investigations into other deaths that occurred around the time of the storm are ongoing.

ERCOT Failures Led to One of the Worst Power Outages in U.S. History

Last month’s winter storm brought sub-freezing temperatures to much of the Lone Star State. As Texans began cranking up their heat to stay warm, the state’s unregulated power grid could not meet demand, leaving around 4 million people freezing in the dark – most without drinkable water – for days.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is responsible for overseeing Texas’ wholesale energy market. But in the weeks since the storm, it’s become clear that the non-profit agency’s failure to meet that responsibility was directly to blame for the state’s deadly power outages.

For one thing, ERCOT has long refused to enforce a “reserve margin” of extra power available above expected demand. The agency also doesn’t require that private power companies weatherize their equipment. Without such precautions in place, much of the state’s energy infrastructure froze in the cold and was unable to deliver what little power there was.

The result of ERCOT’s failure? One of the worst power outages in United States history.

Houston Metro Region Reporting Most Confirmed Deaths

According to the Associated Press, most Texas fatalities were the result of hypothermia, a condition that occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can be generated. Should a victim’s internal temperature continue to drop, the body will restrict circulation to the extremities to keep internal organs warm. Left untreated, the brain is affected, victims become unresponsive, and eventually die.

State health officials also cited motor vehicle accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, medical equipment failures, exacerbation of chronic illness, lack of home oxygen, falls, and fire as causes in “multiple deaths.”

While fatalities have been reported across a large swath of Texas, from the Oklahoma state line to the Mexican boarder, the most confirmed deaths occurred in the Houston Metro Region. Harris County alone has so far reported 31.

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