Tragedy in Texas

Damage in Austin, Texas, after a winter storm moved through the state in February. Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Now as we are seeing deaths from tornadoes as severe weather season begins in the U.S. the cost in human life of the February storms in Texas is becoming more clear.

On Thursday Texas officials revealed that at least 111 people died in the cold, ice, and snow of the February storms. This is a higher death toll than the 68 lives lost from Hurricane Harvey.

Most of the victims died as a result of hypothermia, including an 11-year old boy who froze to death in his family’s bed in the Houston area as temperatures dropped to record lows. Others died from vehicle accidents, medical equipment failures, chronic illnesses that were suddenly worsened, a lack of home oxygen, falls, and fire, state officials said. Others died of carbon monoxide poisoning, in some cases as they tried to heat their homes.

Some of the deaths took place as early as Feb. 11; others died as a result of their illnesses and injuries as recently as March 5.

The disruptions to infrastructure, most-notably including the power grid, will be investigation and maybe litigated in the months and years to come. These types of cases are when forensic consulting meteorologists are retained as expert witnesses to determine the scope of the deadly weather and the degree to which it could (or should) have been anticipated.

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