AUSTIN, Texas – Texas officials on Thursday raised the death toll from February's winter storm and blackouts to at least 111 people — nearly doubling the state's initial tally following one of the worst power outages in U.S. history.
The frigid weather also was blamed for dozens of more deaths across other Southern states including Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama.
The majority of the Texas deaths are associated with hypothermia, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. And the dramatic number of new victims is still a potential undercount, as officials continue investigating deaths that happened around the time the storm knocked out power to more than 4 million customers in Texas.
Many homes went without power or drinkable water for days after subfreezing temperatures, failing power plants and record demand for heat pushed Texas' electric grid to the breaking point.
Texas officials earlier this month put the initial tally of deaths at 57 but warned it would increase. The toll now officially exceeds that of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which was blamed for 68 deaths in Texas.
The list of victims from the February snowstorm cut a wide swath across the state of 30 million people: Some fatalities were nearly as far north as Oklahoma, while others were close to the U.S.-Mexico border. State officials said the causes of “multiple deaths" included motor vehicle accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, medical equipment failures, exacerbation of chronic illness, lack of home oxygen, falls and fire.
The most confirmed deaths occurred around Houston, where Harris County officials have reported at least 31 victims.
Among them was Gilbert Rivera, 60, who told relatives after the power went out in his garage apartment that he was cold but staying bundled up. Rivera, who had worked for about two decades as a custodian, had a learning disability but reveled in his independence and chose to live on his own.