Texas DSHS reports higher death toll from February winter storm

Texas officials have released their final report on Winter Storm Uri, which reflects an even higher death toll than originally thought. 

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) says 246 deaths are connected to the winter storm in February, 36 more than in the previous report. Out of the 244 that had state residency information available, 229 were Texas residents and 15 resided in other states or countries.

28 of those deaths were reported in Travis County, the second-highest countywide death toll, only behind Harris County which had 43 die in connection with the storm. Dallas County had the third-highest death toll with 22. 

Elsewhere in Central Texas, Williamson County reported six deaths and Burnet County reported two. Bastrop, Fayette, Lee, Llano, and Milam counties have each reported one death related to the storm.

DSHS says that it identified and analyzed deaths indirectly, directly or possibly attributable to the storm and that a death is only reported as related to the winter storm when verified by a medical certifier. Deaths related to the storm were identified through three mechanisms: mortality surveillance forms, death certificates, and verification of informally reported deaths.

DSHS says that about 65 percent of winter storm-related deaths were injuries related to extreme-cold exposure, 158 of those due to hypothermia and three due to frostbite.  

According to the report, 25 deaths were due to the exacerbation of pre-existing illness, ranging from disruptions to dialysis or oxygen treatment, the freezing of medical devices and medication, disruption of hospice care, engaging in outdoor repair activity, or loss of power while on electricity dependent equipment required to sustain life. 

About nine percent, or 22 deaths, resulted from motor vehicle accidents caused by hazardous road conditions during the storm, says DSHS. About eight percent or 19 deaths were the result of carbon monoxide poisoning due to the "inappropriate" use of generators, grills, heaters, vehicles running in enclosed spaces and ice obstructing vents on gas-powered heaters.

Ten deaths were from injuries sustained from house fires or while space heaters were in close proximity to ignitable materials. The remaining nine deaths were from trauma or fractures sustained from falls and slips on ice, a person who drowned after falling through ice, and injury complications that developed after a fall.

For the full report, click here.

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