At Least 22 Deaths In Travis County Appear Linked To Texas Winter Storm, Medical Examiner's Findings Show
Seventeen had hypothermia. A man fell from an overpass while trying to avoid a car that slid on ice. A woman died after her urinary catheter froze amid frigid temperatures.
The Travis County Medical Examiner’s office investigated 94 deaths that occurred during February’s winter freeze. On Wednesday, it released its final findings on the cause and manner of those deaths, including 22 that appear to be related to the storm.
During the historic winter weather event, Central Texas experienced several days of snow, ice and below freezing temperatures. The storm led to the breakdown of the state's electric grid and widespread power outages that lasted days.
The county's medical examiner investigates deaths that occur under unusual circumstances, including deaths in which the cause isn’t known, deaths from unnatural causes and suicides. The findings released Wednesday list deaths that occurred between Feb. 11 and Feb. 22 that the office investigated.
Thirteen people had hypothermia noted as a cause of death. Hypothermia is a significant drop in body temperature caused by prolonged exposure to the cold.
Another three individuals had hypothermia but other factors were listed as the cause of death, such as drug use and diabetes complications. Another person, a 70-year-old Hispanic man, possibly had hypothermia, the medical examiner's office said. He had lost power and the sprinkler system went off in his apartment during the storm. Diabetic ketoacidosis was listed as his cause of death.
Of those 17 individuals, 13 were older than age 60. At least four were experiencing homelessness.
Several other deaths appear to be related to the storm. One person, an 87-year-old white woman, died after her urinary catheter froze after being exposed to extreme cold amid the storm.
A 32-year-old Hispanic man died Feb. 11 after falling from an overpass, “while avoiding [a] vehicle that slipped on ice,” according to the report.
Three people died from smoke inhalation after a fire occurred at a home on East 12th Street. The medical examiner’s office did not directly attribute the cause of death to the storm, though news reports say the home had been without power and residents were using a gas stove to heat the home.
More deaths in the list could be related to the storm. For example, three people in the list died in car crashes, but it’s unclear if those were caused by ice or snow hazards.
"The Medical Examiner’s office only makes final determinations of the cause and manner of death of each individual," a spokesperson for the county said in an email. "How the cause and manner of death are considered to be related to the storm may be a matter of interpretation."
The Texas Department of State Health Services has confirmed 151 deaths statewide related to the storm so far, but a data review from BuzzFeed in May found the death toll could be four or five times higher.