Great Texas Freeze killed nearly 3 times more people than Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey was blamed for 89 deaths in the US, the majority of which were in Texas
HOUSTON – The Great Texas Freeze of February 2021 killed far more people in the Lone Star State than Hurricane Harvey did in 2017.
According to the final report from the Texas Department of State Health Services released in December 2021, 246 deaths were attributed to the Great Texas Freeze, spread out across 77 of the state's counties.
Among the 244 that had state residency information available, 229 of the deceased were Texas residents and 15 lived in other states or countries but were in Texas when they were killed.
Harris County, where Houston is located, had the highest death toll with 43. That was followed by Travis County, home to the state capital of Austin, with 28 deaths. Dallas County had the state's third-highest death toll with 22.
Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall along the middle Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane in August 2017, was blamed for only 89 deaths in the U.S. (the majority of which were in Texas), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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That means the Great Texas Freeze killed nearly three times more people than Harvey, the nation's second-costliest weather disaster behind only Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The Texas DSHS said in its report that it identified and analyzed deaths directly, indirectly or possibly attributable to the storm, noting that a death was only reported as related to the Great Texas Freeze when verified by a medical certifier. Three mechanisms were used to identify deaths related to this weather event: mortality surveillance forms, death certificates and verification of informally reported deaths.
The report indicated that about 65% of the deaths in Texas were caused by injuries related to extreme-cold exposure, 158 of which were from hypothermia and three of which were from frostbite.
Twenty-five deaths were the result of an exacerbation of a pre-existing illness, according to the DSHS report. These ranged 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.
The DSHS said about 9%, or 22 deaths, were due to motor vehicle accidents caused by hazardous road conditions during the Great Texas Freeze. About 8%, or 19 deaths, resulted from carbon monoxide poisoning because of the "inappropriate" use of generators, grills and heaters, vehicles running in enclosed spaces and ice obstructing vents on gas-powered heaters.
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Ten deaths were linked to injuries sustained from house fires or while space heaters were in close proximity to combustible materials. The remaining nine deaths were from trauma or fractures sustained after falling or slipping on ice, a person who drowned after falling through ice and injury complications that arose after a fall.
For the full report from the Texas DSHS, click here.