February’s brutal winter storm exposed massive problems in Texas’ power and water systems. It also killed 111 people, according to numbers released Thursday by the Texas Department of State Health Services. That number almost doubles the earlier estimates of at least 57 fatalities as investigators confirmed the cause of more deaths.
The massive winter storm spread ice, snow and freezing temperatures over huge swaths of Texas, but power grid problems left millions weathering conditions in the dark in uninsulated homes, intensifying the storm’s deadliness.
The state’s power grid was minutes from collapse, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas officials told state lawmakers, prompting power operators to implement rotating blackouts, according to NPR member station KUT.
The state says the first storm-related deaths took place on Feb. 11, but due to long-term effects, some Texans succumbed to illness and injury as recently as March 11.
Victims came from 47 counties and included an 11-year-old boy who died of hypothermia and was found on Feb 16. The storm caused many other kinds of deaths as well, including accidents on unsafe roads, falls and fires. Some people’s medical equipment stopped working without power, cutting them off from lifesaving treatments. Others died of carbon monoxide poisoning as they desperately tried to heat their homes or cars.