A revision of the numbers. Expect this to happen at least once more.
At least 111 Texans died as a result of last month’s winter storm, according to updated numbers released Thursday by the state Department of State Health Services.
The newly revised number is nearly twice what the department had estimated last week, and will likely continue to grow. Some of Texas’ larger counties, such as Tarrant County, have yet to report any storm-related deaths.
The majority of people died from hypothermia, but health officials also attributed deaths to “motor vehicle accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, medical equipment failure, exacerbation of chronic illness, lack of home oxygen, falls and fire.”
Harris County reported 31 storm-related deaths, the largest share in the state. Travis County followed with nine deaths.
Health officials will continue to update their preliminary findings weekly.
According to DSHS, the data is compiled from forms that certify deaths are related to a disaster, notification from death certifiers and analyses of death certificates from state epidemiologists.
See here for the background. As a reminder, there were 103 deaths attributed to Hurricane Harvey, so the February freeze event (I’m sorry, I’ve not adopted the new paradigm of naming winter storms, so I have not and probably will not again refer to this as “Winter Storm Uri”) has now surpassed that total. And will likely put some more distance between them when the next month’s data is available.
There has been a bit of legislative action on this front.
A bill that would overhaul Texas’ energy industry — including mandating weatherization for natural gas and power generators — was approved by a Texas Senate committee on Thursday.
The sweeping Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Charles Schwertner of Georgetown, includes a number of reforms that have been floating around the state Capitol since last month’s deadly winter storm left millions without electricity during freezing temperatures. While the Texas House earlier this month approved a package of similar, standalone bills, Thursday’s vote represents the first substantive action on the issue by the upper chamber.
“This is an important issue to get right for the people of Texas, for the future of Texas, for the economy of Texas,” Schwertner said.
Chief among the bill’s provisions is a requirement that all power generators, transmission lines, natural gas facilities and pipelines make upgrades for extreme weather conditions — a process known as weatherization. Many power generators and gas companies were ill-suited for the freezing temperatures in February, which led gas pipelines to freeze and power transmission to falter.
The measure would delegate rulemaking authority to the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industries, and the Texas Public Utility Commission, which regulates the electric and telecommunication industries. If a gas or energy company fails to comply with the weatherization rules, it would face a fine up to $1 million for each offense. The bill does not address funding to pay for the required upgrades.
A Texas House committee earlier this month passed a similar weatherization bill. But the requirements only apply to electric companies, not natural gas companies. In public testimony before the Legislature, Railroad Commission Chair Christi Craddick largely dodged talks of winterizing the natural gas supply chain.
There’s more, so read the rest. I don’t know enough to offer a general critique of these bills, but I would certainly argue that natural gas companies should have the same weatherization requirements. All of these bills are sure to change as they move from one chamber to the other, so we’ll need to see where they wind up.