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Another upward revision of the freeze death count

Buzzfeed News takes a deep dive.

The true number of people killed by the disastrous winter storm and power outages that devastated Texas in February is likely four or five times what the state has acknowledged so far. A BuzzFeed News data analysis reveals the hidden scale of a catastrophe that trapped millions of people in freezing darkness, cut off access to running water, and overwhelmed emergency services for days.

The state’s tally currently stands at 151 deaths. But by looking at how many more people died during and immediately after the storm than would have been expected — an established method that has been used to count the full toll of other disasters — we estimate that 700 people were killed by the storm during the week with the worst power outages. This astonishing toll exposes the full consequence of officials’ neglect in preventing the power grid’s collapse despite repeated warnings of its vulnerability to cold weather, as well as the state’s failure to reckon with the magnitude of the crisis that followed.

Many of the uncounted victims of the storm and power outages were already medically vulnerable — with chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and kidney problems. But without the intense cold and stress they experienced during the crisis, many of these people could still be alive today.

[…]

The BuzzFeed News analysis of deaths during the storm is based on mortality data from the CDC. It relies on a method called “excess deaths” analysis, recently used to estimate the full toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our analysis, reviewed by three independent experts, suggests that between 426 and 978 more people than expected died in Texas in the week ending February 20 alone. Our best estimate is that 702 people were killed by the storm that week. Even the lowest end of the range is almost three times the number officials have acknowledged. Neighboring states that were hit hard by the winter storm but did not experience the widespread power outages seen in Texas did not show a spike in deaths.

BuzzFeed News reached out to relatives of people who died during the power outages, identified from dozens of wrongful death lawsuits as well as death reports obtained from public records requests to medical examiners in eight of the biggest counties in Texas. Interviews revealed stories of anguish and confusion, as families struggled to find out exactly how their relatives died.

This confusion also poses real economic challenges for survivors. For Mary Gonzales, the delay in obtaining a cause of death for her husband meant she was unable to claim an income from his pension for almost three months. And without an official acknowledgment tying their loved ones’ deaths to the storm, families will be unable to claim federal assistance for funeral costs.

The high death toll adds pressure on state legislators, energy regulators, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to harden the state’s infrastructure to avert another deadly disaster.

Abbott’s press secretary, Renae Eze, did not respond to questions about the significantly higher death toll or whether the state would investigate further, but said Abbott was “working collaboratively with the House and Senate to find meaningful and lasting solutions to ensure these tragic events are never repeated.”

“The Governor joins all Texans in mourning every single life lost during the winter storm, and we pray for the families who are suffering from the loss of a loved one,” she said.

But with the state’s legislative session ending on May 31, lawmakers only have a week left to finalize a proposal to address some of the vulnerabilities that made the February storm so horrific.

“As it stands, nothing has happened,” said Michael Webber, a professor of mechanical engineering focused on energy infrastructure at the University of Texas at Austin.

As of the end of March, the official death count was at 111, and a Houston Chronicle analysis in early April estimated it at 194. As this story among others notes, there are only so many medical examiners in the state, and only so many deaths result in an autopsy. As was the case with COVID, some deaths are attributed to chronic conditions like heart disease despite the obvious external cause. Similar statistical methods that estimate “excess deaths” have been used for COVID as well, and you can read how they arrived at these figures in the story. We’ll never know an exact number, but we do know that the official number will always be too low. Daily Kos has more.

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20 Comments

  1. Manny says:

    Why am I not surprised by the fascist/racist/republican party lies?

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    Well, the good news is, the Biden regime is now importing Iranian oil, so maybe we won’t be left in the dark next Winter. And hey….why import oil from Canada when we can import it from the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, Iran?

    https://financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/u-s-imports-rare-iranian-oil-in-march-despite-sanctions-eia-data

    May 30, 2021 • 2 days ago • < 1 minute read •

    SINGAPORE — The United States imported a rare cargo of 1.033 million barrels of Iranian crude in March despite sanctions on Iran’s energy sector, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed.

    The cargo is only the second oil import by the United States from Iran since late 1991, data on EIA’s website showed.

    I'm so happy Biden ended Trump's energy independence policies so we can once again be dependent on foreign oil from countries that hate us! Go team! Energy independence is racist, fascist, and hurtful to people of color like Manny.

  3. Ross says:

    Bill, the US has been importing oil all through the so called energy independence you extoll. That’s mostly because US refineries are not optimized for US oil. So, we export our crude and import heavier crude from all over.

    That cargo was nothing in the scheme of things. About 5 or so percent of a day’s consumption, maybe a bit more.

  4. Manny says:

    Bill and the racist party are working to make mountains out of molehills, or if one prefers, Bill lies.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/556352-biden-administration-to-suspend-arctic-oil-leases-issued-under

    Biden kills planned Alaska drilling, because so called energy independence is bad for America. He killed the KeystoneXL. Thankfully, though, he dropped sanctions on Russia’s pipeline, the Nordstream II, so Russia can sell THEIR energy abroad.

    We address ‘global warming’ by not producing American energy (or refining Canadian energy), but our enemies producing energy…..no problem there. No problem importing energy from our enemies, like Iran or Russia.

  6. Manny says:

    The Racist Party, ala Bill Daniels, lies, lies and then lies some more.

    Trump, the orange buffoon, has taught his minions well.

  7. Lobo says:

    WHO REALLY MADE – AND MAKES – US CHILL?

    Why should we worry about Nordstream II when the more immediate threat to steady and affordable supply of natural gas and electricity in Texas is domestic, namely the crony capitalists and the politicians they have in their pockets; the
    ones that preside over the gas and grid and get to hold the people of Texas for ransom?

    Ransom so exorbitant that billions “have to be” raised on Wall Street so the hostages-at-large can pay off the ransom over then next 20 years while the profiteers are celebrated for their “great performance” during the winter storm, in which millions were simply shut off to reduce strain on the system, and the crisis conditions were then invoked as an excuse to yank up the wholesale price to the max.

    Billions of dollars that would not have “earned” in the absence of the scarcity for which the industry itself was directly responsible by failing to winterize and other acts and omissions.

    And even with the ransom amortization arranged for, we still can’t be sure there will be a steady supply of power to keep heaters and A/C on as needed for survival and comfort. The only viable strategy at the household level seems to be this: become survivalists and figure out ways to do without electricity and water on demand for at least a week.

    HOME-MADE

    So with Nordstream II, the fear is that the Russians might shut it off, thereby causing energy scarcity and chill in Europe.

    We have just been reminded that we need no Russians, nor any cyberattack by nefarious anonymous actors, to suffer the dire consequences of incompetent political leadership and regulatory failure. We have just seen state-imposed rationing of a vital commodity, and state-sponsored price gouging to secure sordid profits for a protected industry while millions of people were rationed-off-line and freezing in their own homes.

    We have just had a Texas-sized demonstration that the enemy is domestic, and that it is us.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    “Why should we worry about Nordstream II?”

    Uh, global warming? We need to end fossil fuels? Why is that argument great for domestic US consumption, but then we don’t hold our enemies to the same exact standard? If we can’t have a pipeline here because of global warming, then Russia shouldn’t have a pipeline, either.

    Why can’t we pat our head and rub our tummy at the same time? We should be addressing the crony capitalism problem here in Texas, AND address the global warming pipeline problem abroad.

    So with Nordstream II, the fear is Russia will use the money it makes to pay for their military to threaten Germany, other NATO countries, and take the rest of Ukraine back. Talk about a double whammy. First, they’re contributing to global warming, then they’re using the income to threaten the West, militarily.

    The point is, Wolf, you’re playing a shell game, a “look over here at this hand,” while making a point to get us not to look at the other hand.

    Why is it that leftist policies always seem to punish Americans and prioritize foreigners over American citizens? Why do you think Trump has such a loyal base? America First is popular with….Americans.

    ~killing American oil and gas while supporting foreign oil and gas
    ~ending travel ban on Muslim terror countries
    ~opening the border and mass importing of illegals, using our own ICE and BP to be the ‘last mile’ delivery system for the cartels smuggling illegals into the US
    ~jacking up prices on insulin and epinephrine after Trump had them lowered
    ~stoking racial division in the US….who does internal unrest benefit? Hint: foreign countries

    Virtually everything Biden has done has benefited foreigners at the expense of the people of the US.

  9. Bill Daniels says:

    Another foreigners < Americans policy from Biden:

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/bidens-plan-to-stop-mining-critical-minerals-irresponsible/ar-AAKtG84

    So our utopian future will rely on batteries, powered by unicorns, I guess. OK. We need things like lithium to make all those batteries, but we're not going to mine for it here, no, we're going to kill domestic mining and support foreign countries mining for these things.

    But this is a feature, not a bug, as we march onward to make the US even more dependent, weak, and vulnerable. Anyone seen the issue with computer chips? Cars are sitting on factory lots, unusable and unsaleable because they need computer chips installed, because we don't make enough here. If we can't mine our own lithium for this all electric future, how does that work out for us?

    Call it what it is, a Global Reset. I don't get it. None of this benefits ANYONE that posts here. None of this improves any of your lives, unless we believe Bernie when he told us that breadlines were a good thing.

  10. Manny says:

    Bill, where do you get all the bull to post? That is an opinion piece promoting a company from Australia.

    It does not say what you claim. Why do you buffoons always insist on promoting lies?

  11. Bill Daniels says:

    https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/bidens-ev-metals-import-plan-unlikely-to-match-climate-goals-executives-2021-05-26-0

    Manny,

    The same info is available at many leftist friendly sites. Why is it you don’t want to believe that Biden desires to stop US mining of rare earth minerals and instead, promote the importation of those same minerals from foreign countries?

    The DNC has been against US mining since before Hillary told coal miners to ‘learn to code.’

    Instead of denying the policies you voted for are taking place, why not defend them? I really don’t get it. You are getting exactly what you voted for. When Trump won, and I was getting what I voted for, I was gleeful. I defended the all of the above energy policy that made the US a net energy exporter for the first time in 70 years. Why can’t you stand up and support what you voted for? You voted to kill US mining in favor of foreign mining.

    Do you need more sources, or is Reuters OK with you?

  12. Lobo says:

    If the Russians cut off the gas to Germany, they won’t get paid and there is no global PUC and no global ERCOT to socialize the cost resulting from price gouging to force payment from ordinary Germans to Gasprom (see “ransom amortization” above).

    I am no expert on the energy sector in Europe and the associated regulatory regime at the EU level. So by all means, correct me if I am wrong.

    So, it wouldn’t be in the interest of Russia — however evil its leadership — to create artificial conditions of scarcity. And as for earning money through trade, it’s a mutually beneficial transaction. Autarky is out. That’s pretty much the global consensus now. 

    That leaves the question of whether Russia would throttle or cut off supply of gas *for geo-political reasons*, and be willing to absorb the losses in the nature of foregone sales volume. Generally speaking, the bullying and hardball works better when directed at the week. Reunified Germany ain’t it. And erstwhile subservient East Germany is no more.  

    As for Ukraine, that country is concededly in a more precarious situation, but that’s hardly just a question of dependence on Russian gas. So any argument about Ukraine’s position vis-à-vis Russia cannot be analogized with Germany, the largest EU member state with the strongest economy.

    In any event, the answer to the risk of (over)-dependence is diversification. In the case of energy, a mix of sources, and cross-border (if  not EU-wide) grid integration also facilitates risk mitigation.

    Additionally, each country that buys cheap gas from Russia can invest in storage capacity to create a buffer and thereby hedge against temporary supply disruptions. Incidentally, that would also work to make the energy supply more reliable in Texas: On-site fuel storage at generating plants instead of just-in-time delivery via pipeline from the wellhead. And a Texas strategic reserve in Gulf Coast salt domes, perhaps, to be tapped upon a gubernatorial declaration of an impending energy shortfall emergency or demand-surge event.

    Once we have a non-GOP Governor, there might even be a chance that the Disaster Act be invoked to actually protect the civilian population against disasters, rather than for thwarting local disaster response initiatives.

    We have already seen that the PUC (in close collaboration with Abbott’s office) was able and willing to commandeer the energy market to fill the pockets of profiteers in a natural disaster. Perhaps the PUC could commandeer the energy infrastructure to actually serve the public interest under conditions of crisis, rather than deliver a hurricane-grade financial windfall to the industry at the expense of the people of Texas. 

    Finally, let’s not forget that Texas has so much natural gas that drillers are actually flaring it off (wasting it, and contributing to CO2 output, without no countervailing benefit). 

    Clearly, it’s not a problem of having to rely on foreign sources of natural gas for lack of local resources in Texas, or liquified tar sands pumped down from Canada, for that matter.  It is, much rather, a question of having more intelligent public policy at the state level; — public policy that pays heed to the public interest. As in: Taking care to keep the lights on at the most basic level. 

  13. Bill Daniels says:

    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/biden-slams-u-miners-critical-180000004.html

    “The Biden Administration plans to source the key metals for electric vehicles from allies outside America and focus on processing those materials in the United States, officials told Reuters in what could be a blow to U.S. miners and a move to appease environmentalists.

    The U.S. Administration is keen to progress electrification and significantly increased use of EVs as part of its plans to curb emissions and fight climate change. However, in doing so, the Biden Administration is more likely to focus on job creation in the processing of the raw materials for EVs, rather than on sourcing those critical metals with more permits for mining in the United States, the Reuters sources with direct knowledge of the plans said.”

  14. Bill Daniels says:

    Wolf,

    Remember at the beginning of the China flu epidemic, when ‘supply chain disruptions’ from China hobbled our ability to make medicines here in the US? China is a clear example of how a country would take an economic hit to hurt a competitor. So, would Russia be willing to shut off the spigot on the Nordstream II to threaten and weaken Germany? Sure. Equally as important, doesn’t it irritate you a little bit that we spend billions of dollars a year protecting Germany, and they repay us by buying gas from the country we are defending them from? Nothing?

    But there you go again. The real threat is, the Nordstream II will put money in Russia’s pocket that it will use on military to threaten Germany and our other NATO allies. You’ve already pointed out you don’t care if Russia retakes Ukraine completely. I mean, other than that whole promise to Ukraine that if they gave up their Soviet era nukes, we’d keep them from being re-invaded thing, why would we care about Ukraine? Why would we care that Russia took a deepwater base in Crimea? it’s not like they would use that Crimean base to launch nuclear armed subs or carrier groups, right? Oh, wait, that did happen.

  15. Lobo says:

    IR 101 – SUPERSEDED PRE-MILLENNIAL VERSION OKAY

    The way to deal with nuclear threats posed by states/nations is through deterrence (ability to retaliate after being hit, more specifically). Remember MAD, the doctrine, not just Doktor Strangelove.

    RELATIVE NUCLEAR THREATS

    US has more nukes than any other country, and ability to deliver them wherever. So, no problem that isn’t manageable. Putin may be evil (question of judgment), but not crazy. Not to sure about Trump and the North Korean dictator.

    The key collective international security challenge is to keep nuclear weapons capabilities out of the hands/control of nonstate actors and crazy dictators. Just evil dictators not so much a problem as long as they are rational and mind their respective country’s national interest. That’s been the status quo for decades. Stability is assured through the credible threat of a retaliatory strike. Basic concept in International Relations (IR) in the nuclear age.

    The other *real existing* nuclear threat is Chernobyl. Europe already paid huge amounts of money on the sarcophagus, and it’s still unstable inside. See recent news coverage on the subject.

    But again, the threat to Europe is much greater than to the US or Texas in particular. If Chernobyl blows up again, the radioactive crap will descend upon Europe first — as happened originally in 1986 — because the mountains and the atmospheric and precipitation patterns. So, from the perspective of a Texas “nationalist” — as opposed to people who care about humanity and its future generally and globally – it need not be a priority concern.

    There are more urgent concerns in Texas and US, such as preserving democracy and keeping the electrical power on.

    And, to just mention in passing, we do have a nuclear power facility nearby, and it failed in part during the winter storm (not the reactor, though).

  16. Bill Daniels says:

    OK, MAD is a decent policy to deter a nuclear holocaust. Fine. Hours and hours wiled away as a youth playing Risk tells me that board position still matters. But what about the environmental holocaust from global warming that the Nordstream II pipeline will unleash on the whole world? Is that just chopped liver? Oil and gas in Russia, used in Germany, will warm the world, raise sea levels, leave polar bears without ice to live on…..do I need to go on? Why can’t Germany just put up some more solar panels?

    US pipeline = Kill it before it kills all of us!

    Russian pipeline = This is fine!

    Back to the actual thread topic….I agree with you. I blame Abbott for the whole Coldpocalypse debacle, and yes, the ratepayers of Texas are ALL going to take it in the shorts to privatize profits, and socialize losses that Abbott’s own appointees created in the first place.

    I’ll be supporting Don Huffines for governor, to rid us of Abbott. Who knows, maybe the power of killing businesses, jobs and souls went to his head…he went crazy with power. It happens.

  17. Bill Daniels says:

    Wolf,

    ” Incidentally, that would also work to make the energy supply more reliable in Texas: On-site fuel storage at generating plants instead of just-in-time delivery via pipeline from the wellhead.”

    You know, we used to have on site fuel storage just like that. Coal plants next to the mine, like we have in Jewett, and nuclear plants like the STNP. Guess what kind of power leftists absolutely HATE? Coal and nuclear.

  18. Manny says:

    Bill, if I used your logic, you vote for people that kill anyone that is not white that may come to this country illegally. Oh, yes, you are in favor of that.

    Bill, if I used your logic, you vote for people that kill anyone that does not support your hate of women; oh, yes, you are in favor of that.

    Bill, if I used your logic, you vote for people that hate democracy and support fascism and/or racism. Oh, yes, you are in favor of that.

  19. Lobo says:

    IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GAS … WELL, MOSTLY

    Bill: As you well know, coal is not competitive with natural gas, of which there is normally ample supply (at low prices) in our area, which is also why gas makes up such a large share of the Texas energy mix by fuel source.

    As for reliability – coal-fired plants failed too. Nor can they be started up as quickly as late-model gas turbines. See generally, https://www.energy.gov/fe/how-gas-turbine-power-plants-work

    According to sources cited by wikipedia, typical thermal efficiency for utility-scale electrical generators is around 37% for coal and oil-fired plants, and 56 – 60% (LEV) for combined-cycle gas-fired plants. Big differential. If in doubt, there should be plenty of relevant research online.

    As to who hates what and how much, it’s not a valid policy argument, though it can affect the politics surrounding it. The vested interests, however, are much more powerful forces that shape government policy, along with the paid-for propaganda and lobbying.

  20. C.L. says:

    Guess what type of power generation the human beings on this planet hate ? The type that (slowly ? quickly ?) kills the planet, but more immediately, kills them.

    1,000 miners/yr dying from black lung disease…still.